Developing a PBL course in Economics: a sceptic's diary

We have found one brave soul who has agreed to develop a second year module using Problem-Based Learning and write a diary of her experiences to be featured here. In return for this we will part-fund her attendance at an introductory PBL workshop in Maastricht. We hope that her regular accounts will encourage debate across the community on the use of newer teaching methods

Report One - Introduction, October 2002

Contact: Judith Piggott
Principal Lecturer in Economics, Oxford Brookes University
jmpiggott@brookes.ac.uk
Published November 2002

It was last November when I attended an LTSN meeting in Bristol that I first came upon PBL. Everyone in the meeting was talking about it and I finally plucked up courage to ask what PBL was. "Problem based learning" was the reply - now I had heard of this! But what exactly did it entail? Wasn't it something we tended to do in seminars as an integral part of any economics course anyway?

I was told that this was really not the idea - that PBL was much more than this. That it was used for whole modules, even whole degrees and if I wanted to learn more about it I should go either to Linkoping or Maastricht.

The basic idea, I was told, was that not only do students identify the solution to a problem but also identify the problem itself and that the lecturer/tutor acts more as a facilitator to learning.

I must admit I still found it difficult to grasp the difference between this and some seminar classes we run at Brookes - however, I try to keep an open mind and was interested in pursuing this further. I also felt it might be a useful approach to a new module I am teaching next year involving students from a number of very different fields and experiences.

So this is how I found myself going to Maastricht in December to investigate the use of PBL in Economics and Business studies. It is also why I have agreed to write a form of journal for the LTSN on how I found this experience, how I anticipate using PBL in the future and what actually happens when I try and implement this into my module/s - basically the advantages and disadvantages, the problems and "pluses".

So this will be an "on-going" report on PBL in economics from someone on the sceptical side - but willing to be convinced!

Next: Report Two - Report on Maastrict Visit, December 2002