University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (MALAYSIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 3641-3652
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) has become more widely used in various fields including education. Although there has been research exploring its effectiveness from the student perspective, there has been little research exploring the perceptions of the teachers especially in the context of language learning. This paper reports an evaluation of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) educators of PBL in a Malaysian undergraduate engineering programme. This method of learning is reliant on the students’ ability to learn in a self-directed mode and is considered to bridge the ‘theory–practice’ gap more effectively. The purpose of this evaluation was to ascertain if this was the case by investigating the experiences of lecturers facilitating a problem based learning ESP classroom. The study took place at University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM). Data were collected from interviewing ESP lecturers implementing the PBL approach in their courses. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken following random selection from two groups of lecturers; those more experienced with the PBL approach and those without much exposure to the approach. Findings revealed an improvement in the students’ ability to inquire and learn in a self-directed manner, and the development of a more holistic view of the learning process. Aspects of the teacher’s role identified included questioning students to draw out their knowledge and understanding and to help students challenge each other, discuss and evaluate their learning. Difficulties encountered were mostly in relation to facilitating groups of differing backgrounds and ability and seeking to enable the students to work well together. Key challenges for teachers were in relation to developing facilitation skills, balancing input or guidance with facilitating independent learning. In a nutshell, PBL was perceived to be beneficial in helping students relate theory to practice and in encouraging an active and enquiring approach to English language use, but lecturers raised important questions about its practice. Tensions were identified between the constructivist theories on which the model of PBL rests and the formal requirements of an externally regulated language curriculum.
Problem-Based Learning, Language Learning, English for Specific Purposes, Self-directed Learning, teacher perspective.