“Evaluations now seem doable”….
The Effectiveness of Problem Based Learning for Teaching Research Methods
Jean M. Kruzich and
Shauna K. Carlisle (School of Social Work)
The basic principle supporting the concept of Problem Based Learning (PBL) is that learning is initiated by a posed problem, query, or puzzle that the learner wants to solve. In the problem-based approach, complex, real-world problems are used to motivate students to identify and research the concepts and principles they need to know to work through those problems.
A modification of the PBL, developed by Jean Kruzich, called the Collaborative Community Based Project, shifts away from the classroom practices of short, isolated, teacher-centered lessons and instead emphasizes learning activities that are longer-term, team-based, agency-based, student centered, and focus on real problems faced by social service agency practitioners. The Community Based Project requires that students work collaboratively with a community agency or organization to assist them in evaluating an aspect of their program. This model requires that students become familiar with the services provided by the agency and analyze data that has not been studied by the agency.
The assumptions behind this model is that it allows for the optimal transfer of learning from classroom to field when knowledge is acquired actively and collaboratively. The instructors used a PBL model to develop two graduate level classes; The Collaborative Community Based Program Evaluation (SW 574) class and the Research Design (BPOLST 594) class. This study reviews 8 course evaluations to determine students experience of the Community Based Project model and its effectiveness in increasing; 1) student motivation for learning, 2) an appreciation for evaluation research, 3) the ability to work collaboratively within a work group and, 4) opportunities to develop occupational skills. Course evaluations reveal students found the course to be challenging but motivating and by the end of the course, most students were able to make a connection between practice and the theoretical concepts learned in class.