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Abstract

In recent years (since the mid 1970’s) there has been an increased interest in Problem Based Learning (PBL) as an educational methodology which is not a instructor-centred as traditional educational methodologies. Education professionals are legitimately asking if PBL is applicable generally to most disciplines, and if so, should it be viewed as an alternative or a complementary methodology. Traditional teaching methodologies for technical disciplines place the instructor very much at the centre of learning for the student (with formal lectures, supervised laboratory work and tutorials), particularly in the early years of study at third level. A common view in education is that “assessment drives learning” and that “the curriculum shows you what the teaching staff are doing, assessment tells you what the students are doing”1. Current assessment methodologies at second–level can place more emphasis on knowledge recall rather than actual understanding and this experience can be reinforced at third-level. It may be unrealistic to expect learning not to be primarily driven by assessment, but better assessment methodologies may map the student’s learning more closely to the course objectives. The careful specification of course objectives and the design of curriculum, learning and assessment methodologies to support them is a problem to which PBL offers a solution. It is not the only solution. This article represents a first step in trying to define what is meant by PBL and if it can be applied to the teaching of computing at third level in an Institute of Technology.

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