Instructional Science

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 371–395 | Cite as

What students learn in problem-based learning: a process analysis

Article

Abstract

This study aimed to provide an account of how learning takes place in problem-based learning (PBL), and to identify the relationships between the learning-oriented activities of students with their learning outcomes. First, the verbal interactions and computer resources studied by nine students for an entire PBL cycle were recorded. The relevant concepts articulated and studied individually while working on the problem-at-hand were identified as units of analysis and counted to demonstrate the growth in concepts acquired over the PBL cycle. We identified two distinct phases in the process—an initial concept articulation, and a later concept repetition phase. To overcome the sample-size limitations of the first study, we analyzed the verbal interactions of, and resources studied, by another 35 students in an entire PBL cycle using structural equation modeling. Results show that students’ verbal contributions during the problem analysis phase strongly influenced their verbal contributions during self-directed learning and reporting phases. Verbal contributions and individual study influenced similarly the contributions during the reporting phase. Increased verbalizations of concepts during the reporting phase also led to higher achievement. We found that collaborative learning is significant in the PBL process, and may be more important than individual study in determining students’ achievement.

Keywords

Learning processes Problem-based learning Small-group collaboration Self-directed study Verbal interaction 

References

  1. Arbuckle, J. L. (2006). Amos 7.0 user’s guide. Chicago: SPSS.Google Scholar
  2. Barrows, H. S. (1986). A taxonomy of problem-based learning methods. Medical Education, 20, 481–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrows, H. S. (1988). The tutorial process. Springfield, IL: Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.Google Scholar
  4. Barrows, H. S. (1996). Problem-based learning in medicine and beyond: A brief overview. In L. Wilkerson & W. H. Gijselaers (Eds.), New directions for teaching and learning (Vol. 68, pp. 3–11). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Capon, N., & Kuhn, D. (2004). What’s so good about problem-based learning? Cognition and Instruction, 22(1), 61–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chi, M. T. H., Deleeuw, N., Chiu, M. H., & Lavancher, C. (1994). Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding. Cognitive Science, 18(3), 439–477.Google Scholar
  8. Cobb, P. (1994). Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development. Educational Researcher, 23, 13–20.Google Scholar
  9. De Grave, W. S., Boshuizen, H. P. A., & Schmidt, H. G. (1996). Problem based learning: Cognitive and metacognitive processes during problem analysis. Instructional Science, 24(5), 321–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Grave, W. S., Schmidt, H. G., & Boshuizen, H. P. A. (2001). Effects of problem-based discussion on studying a subsequent text: A randomized trial among first year medical students. Instructional Science, 29(1), 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dochy, F., Segers, M., & Buehl, M. M. (1999). The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research, 69(2), 42.Google Scholar
  12. Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van den Bossche, P., & Gijbels, D. (2003). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis. Learning and Instruction, 13(5), 533–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dolmans, D., & Schmidt, H. G. (2006). What do we know about cognitive and motivational effects of small group tutorials in problem-based learning? Advances in Health Sciences Education, 11(4), 321–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dolmans, D., Schmidt, H. G., & Gijselaers, W. H. (1995). The relationship between student-generated learning issues and self-study in problem-based learning. Instructional Science, 22(4), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23, 5–12.Google Scholar
  16. Gallagher, S. A., Stepien, W. J., & Rosenthal, H. (1992). The effects of problem-based learning on problem solving. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36, 195–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glaser, R., & Bassok, M. (1989). Learning theory and the study of instruction. Annual Review of Psychology, 40, 631–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glenn, P. J., Koschmann, T., & Conlee, M. (1999). Theory presentation and assessment in a problem-based learning group. Discourse Processes, 27(2), 119–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hak, T., & Maguire, P. (2000). Group process: The black box of studies on problem-based learning. Academic Medicine, 75(7), 769–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hmelo-Silver, C. E., & Barrows, H. S. (2008). Facilitating collaborative knowledge building. Cognition and Instruction, 26, 48–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1996). LISREL 8 user’s reference guide. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  24. Kolodner, J. L., Camp, P. J., Crismond, D., Fasse, B., Gray, J., Holbrook, J., et al. (2003). Problem-based learning meets case-based reasoning in the middle-school science classroom: Putting learning by Design™ into practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 495–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Koschmann, T., Glenn, P., & Conlee, M. (1997). Analyzing the emergence of a learning issue in a problem-based learning meeting. Medical Education Online, 2, 1–9.Google Scholar
  26. MacCallum, R. C., & Austin, J. T. (2000). Applications of structural equation modeling in psychological research. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 201–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Murphy, G. L., & Medin, D. L. (1985). The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review, 92(3), 289–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Norman, G. R., & Schmidt, H. G. (1992). The psychological basis of problem-based learning—a review of the evidence. Academic Medicine, 67(9), 557–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Novak, J. D. (1998). Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools for schools and corporations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  30. Palincsar, A. S. (1998). Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rivard, L. P., & Straw, S. B. (2000). The effect of talk and writing on learning science: An exploratory study. Science Education, 84(5), 566–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schmidt, H. G. (1983). Problem-based learning: Rationale and description. Medical Education, 17(1), 11–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schmidt, H. G. (1993). Foundations of problem-based learning—some explanatory notes. Medical Education, 27(5), 422–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schmidt, H. G., De Volder, M. L., De Grave, W. S., Moust, J. H. C., & Patel, V. L. (1989). Explanatory models in the processing of science text: The role of prior knowledge activation through small-group discussion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(4), 610–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schmidt, H. G., Loyens, S. M. M., Van Gog, T., & Paas, F. (2007). Problem-based learning is compatible with human cognitive architecture: Commentary on Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schmidt, H. G., & Moust, J. H. C. (2000). Factors affecting small-group tutorial learning: A review of research. In D. H. Evensen & C. E. Hmelo-Silver (Eds.), Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions (pp. 19–52). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  37. Schmidt, H. G., Van der Molen, H. T., Te Winkel, W. W. R., & Wijnen, W. H. F. W. (2009). Constructivist, problem-based, learning does work: A meta-analysis of curricular comparisons involving a single medical school. Educational Psychologist, 44, 227–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Van den Hurk, M. M., Dolmans, D., Wolfhagen, I., & Van der Vleuten, C. P. M. (2001). Testing a causal model for learning in a problem-based curriculum. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 6(2), 141–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Van den Hurk, M. M., Wolfhagen, I., Dolmans, D., & Van der Vleuten, C. P. M. (1999). The impact of student-generated learning issues on individual study time and academic achievement. Medical Education, 33(11), 808–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Visschers-Pleijers, A. J., Dolmans, D., de Leng, B. A., Wolfhagen, I. H., & Van der Vleuten, C. P. (2006). Analysis of verbal interactions in tutorial groups: A process study. Medical Education, 40(2), 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Yew, E. H. J., & Schmidt, H. G. (2008). Evidence for constructive, self-regulatory, and collaborative processes in problem-based learning. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 14(2), 251–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zimmerman, B. J. (1990). Self-regulated learning and academic-achievement—an overview. Educational Psychologist, 25(1), 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Educational DevelopmentRepublic PolytechnicSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations