The development of an integrated problem-based learning (PBL) approach in a post-matriculation programme at the University of Stellenbosch
Thesis (PhD (Educational Psychology))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.
It is evident that many students admitted to higher education in South Africa are ill-prepared for tertiary study. The predominantly behaviorist school system encourages learner dependency and superficial understanding and fails to encourage reflection and self-direction. Changing times and a more diverse student population have heightened the need for a broader range of teaching and learning approaches at tertiary level. As a result, many departments, faculties and institutes such as SciMathUS have explored the merits of problem-based learning (PBL) which supports students as self-directed, independent learners. Problem-based learning is a different philosophical approach to the whole notion of teaching and learning where problems drive the learning and is one of the best examples of a constructivist learning environment. Thus far, problem-based learning has mainly been implemented in long-term medical curricula, so research findings focus mainly on the development of PBL for longer programmes. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether introducing a Hybrid PBL approach in a shorter one-year foundation programme can create conditions for learners to develop and sustain self-directed learning skills and gain more control of the learning process. This interpretive-constructivist study may be broadly termed evaluation research. A mixedmethod approach that involved collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data was chosen. Evaluation findings indicate that introducing students to a Hybrid PBL approach does promote more meaningful learning patterns, typified by processing the subject matter critically and self-regulating learning processes. However the sustainability of the meaningdirected learning activities is questionable if student beliefs do not support the activities employed. Findings also reveal that the Hybrid PBL approach contributes to overall programme improvement by promoting understanding in mathematics and science and improved staff relationships and subject knowledge. PBL helps to establish a learner-centered learning environment that emphasizes relations in mathematics and science, promotes deep approaches to learning which may lead to higher levels of achievement and success in Higher Education.