Cognitive Effects of an Authentic Computer-supported Problem-Based Learning Environment.

Jos A.R. Arts*, W.H. Gijselaers, M.S.R. Segers

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present study describes the redesign of a Problem Based Learning (PBL) course in a Business curriculum and the effects of this approach on students' cognitive learning outcomes. The goal of the research was to explore the extent to which this new approach would yield better cognitive learning outcomes, when compared to a regular PBL setting. Three main aspects of the regular PBL course were redesigned. Firstly, the authenticity of the case studies was optimized. Authentic problem descriptions and company information were used for the acquisition, application, and assessment of knowledge. Ill-structured real-life information was used, from real companies. Secondly, control aspects between students and tutors were modified. Students were given increased control over their tasks as they worked more independently from their tutors in small, self-steering teams. Thirdly, the students' ways of social collaboration were adapted to resemble teamwork in business practice. Apart from one regular PBL tutorial meeting, students worked in very small teams. Student collaboration on problem solving and information delivery was supported through electronic communication tools. In order to measure the effects of the redesign on students' cognitive learning outcomes, a quasi-experimental comparative design was set up. Subjects were second-year students who were enrolled in a marketing course at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration. They completed a case study at the end of the course. The scores on this knowledge application test indicated that the redesigned PBL-format contributed significantly to improved cognitive gains, compared to the regular PBL-setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-495
Number of pages30
JournalInstructional Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002

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