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Implementing Problem-Based Learning in an Undergraduate Psychology Course

Author(s): H. Russell Searight, PhD | Barbara K. Searight, PhD

Journal: InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching
ISSN 1933-4850

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 69;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: Education | Psychology | Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a small-group pedagogical technique widely used in fields such as business, medicine, engineering, and architecture. In PBL, pre-written cases are used to teach core course content. PBL advocates state that course material is more likely to be retained and applied when presented as cases reflecting "real life" applications of class material. However, rather than traditional lecture-discussion, PBL encourages student autonomy in analyzing cases, with the instructor serving initially as a structuring facilitator before gradually becoming less active as students take more responsibility for their learning. As students proceed through each case, they address four dimensions: What they know, what they want to know, possible causal hypotheses, and questions that can be answered through library research. The PBL cases referred to herein were developed and employed for an undergraduate psychology course, "Psychology of the Exceptional Child." Students completing this course included psychology, special education, and human service majors and have positively evaluated this technique as a teaching tool.
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