An Assessment Rich Pbl vs Classical Teaching Approach: a Case of an Embedded Systems Course

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Proceedings of the 2nd International Research Symposium on PBL, 3-4 December 2009, Melbourne, Australia

An assessment rich PBL vs classical teaching approach: a case of an embedded systems course

M. Abdulwahed1, W. Balid2

Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK ( 2 Faculty of EEE, Aleppo University, Aleppo ALP, Syria (

Abstract This paper reports on a study where the PBL was investigated whether it would enhance the students learning and engagement of an MCU laboratory course or not. The students were divided into two equivalent groups, experimental and control. The control group students were taught the lab in the classical way, i.e. attending the lab session only. The experimental group was taught with assessment rich PBL pedagogical methodology where they were weekly assigned problems to solve during and after each laboratory session, these were discussed and corrected by the lecturer and feedback was sent to the students, also they were asked to prepare and evaluation quizzes were conducted each week to measure the impact of the assignments and preparation benefit. The control group students were free to communicate the lecturer for any feedback, if they needed. After four weekly laboratory sessions, both groups were examined unexpectedly. The exam included questions covering the whole four weeks. As for statistically analyzing of the exam results, the Null Hypothesis was laid down. The latter stated that “There is no statistically difference between the control and the experimental group due to the assessment rich PBL approach”. The statistical analysis of the exam results showed very strong statistical evidence to reject the Null Hypothesis. The experimental group students outperformed significantly the control group students. The results showed a pedagogically rooted didactic reform could lead to radical enhancement of the learning outcomes. The lecturer observed significant engagement and motivation enhancement of the experimental group students. Furthermore, the students’ survey showed better attitude of the experimental group students over the control group students. The paper discusses also the logistical issues associated with the new approach such as the extra work load deemed from the lecturer. Suggestions of further pedagogically informed restructuring to eliminate the latter downside of the approach are discussed.

Keywords: PBL, Engineering Education, Laboratory Education.

Project, or Problem, Based Learning (PBL) is one prominent constructivist pedagogy practice. One of the recent constructivist pedagogy practices is Project Based Learning (PBL). Project based learning is an educational methodology draws on the constructivist pedagogy philosophy, it transforms education from teacher-centred into student-centred approach by designing curriculum emphasizing more on projects than classroom lectures, hence, the student has the principal role in constructing the knowledge. The PBL projects are normally defined in the literature as follows, projects are tasks based on challenging problems that involves the students in design, problem solving, decision making, give the students an opportunity to work in rather autonomous way, and results in a realistic product [1],[2]. Projects should include an authentic content, reliable and effective assessment, clear objectives, and a teacher role as facilitator [3]. Many researchers emphasize that projects should include elements for reflection, cooperative learning, and adult skills [4]. Normally the assigned projects are real or quasi-real, hence, relevance of the provided tuition to the students in higher education is facilitated. This has particular impact on increasing students motivation to the studied subject [5], students can master the specific learning outcomes of the curriculum through the PBL efficiently as they will do through the classical classroom based tuition....
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