• A longitudinal evaluation of the impact of a problem-based learning approach to the teaching of Software Development in higher education

    James Doody
    ITT Dublin

    Research paper

    Themes: problem-based learning and enquiry-based learning

    Tuesday 2 September 2008, 10.10-11.10 in Weardale

    This paper reports on an ongoing longitudinal study which evaluates the effectiveness of using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach in the teaching of Software Development to first year students in a third level college. Effectiveness is measured firstly by quantifying any change in students’ attainment marks attributable to using PBL in the Software Development module and secondly by quantifying any longer term increase in attainment.

    There is strong evidence that PBL increases learner motivation (Bernstein, Tipping, Bercovitz, & Skinner, 1995; Bridges & Hallinger, 1991; Pincus, 1995; Schmidt, Henny, & de Vries, 1992). However, most studies to date have focused on high attainment learners in fields such as medicine and business. This study examines the motivational value of PBL for low attainment learners in the relatively unexplored field of Computing. Motivation in the PBL module is measured using class attendance data, interviews and questionnaires.

    The relationship between PBL and learner motivation is investigated using two theories of learner motivation: Goal Theory and Self Determination Theory which provide a framework for explaining learner behaviour.

    Other qualitative improvements possibly attributable to PBL, such as any improvement in the learning environment or in students’ enjoyment of the subject, are measured by means of interviews and questionnaires.