If PBL is the answer, then what is the problem?





PBL, Problem Based Learning, project catalogues


Danish PBL-based higher education institutions espouse the qualities of problem-based projects but actual practice shows a different picture. The predominant use of project catalogues and the formal requirements imposed by accreditation inhibit central intentions behind problem-based project work and there is now a danger of routinization.

In this paper we identify and analyze problems of routinization of project work based on students’ and supervisor’s perceptions of project work; this is done in the context of undergraduate degree programmes in the Department of Computer Science at Aalborg University.

We identify the need for a further discussion of the conflict between the espoused ideals of PBL and the actual practice at PBL-based higher education.

Our findings also point towards the need for action research into new ways of structuring problem-based project work in different settings.In particular, much greater attention should be devoted to the practice of semester coordination.

Author Biographies

Hans Hüttel, Department of Computer Science University of Aalborg

Hans Hüttel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Aalborg University. He is a member of the Board of Studies for Computer Science at Aalborg University and was head of the committee that revised the degree programmes in computer science and software technology in 2009-2010. From 2011 he was involved in drafting the guidelines for re-introducing group-based project exams at Aalborg University. His research interests are in the mathematical foundations of computer science including structural operational semantics of programming languages, process calculi, type systems – and in computer science education. Hans Hüttel received the Teacher of the Year award at Aalborg University in 2014 and is a member of DUN (Danish University Teachers’ Network). 

Dorina Gnaur, VIA University College

Dorina Gnaur, Learning Specialist, PhD, is a pedagogical ICT designer and researcher in the Learning and ICT Research Group at VIA University College. She runs various projects related to the integration of ICT in teaching and education. Her current research includes digital didactic design as well as innovative approaches to technology enhanced learning in crowdsourced and other forms of co-creative learning environments.
Since 2010, she has been affiliated with the Department of Learning and Philosophy at Aalborg University, where she runs courses in University Pedagogy, Problem Based Learning and Change Management. Furthermore, she is connected to the department research environment, namely the Higher Education Research Unit, as well as the D4Learning research group.


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