ProblemBased Learning: a framework for prospective teachers pedagogical problem solving

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Memorial University of Newfoundland]On: 03 August 2014, At: 11:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    ProblemBased Learning: a frameworkfor prospective teachers pedagogicalproblem solvingChristina De Simone aa University of Ottawa , Ontario, CanadaPublished online: 18 Jul 2008.

    To cite this article: Christina De Simone (2008) ProblemBased Learning: a framework forprospective teachers pedagogical problem solving, Teacher Development: An international journalof teachers' professional development, 12:3, 179-191, DOI: 10.1080/13664530802259206

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  • Teacher DevelopmentVol. 12, No. 3, August 2008, 179191

    ISSN 1366-4530 print/ISSN 1747-5120 online 2008 Teacher DevelopmentDOI: 10.1080/13664530802259206http://www.informaworld.com

    Problem-Based Learning: a framework for prospective teachers pedagogical problem solving

    Christina De Simone*

    University of Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaTaylor and Francis Ltd(Received 11 November 2006; final version received 10 January 2008)RTDE_A_326087.sgm10.1080/13664530802259206Teacher Development1366-4530 (print)/1747-5120 (online)Original Article2008Taylor & Francis123000000August 2008ChristinaDe Simonecdesimon@uottawa.ca

    Current educational reform movements emphasize preparing teachers for pedagogicalproblem solving in the classroom. This study examines the impact of problem-basedlearning on prospective teachers problem-solving abilities. Two classes of prospectiveteachers were included in this study. The experimental class used problem-basedlearning while the control group used a more traditional approach. The dependentmeasure was the participants analyses of a problem. The participants in problem-basedlearning were significantly better than the controls in constructing the central problem,elaborating the problem, relating their solutions to the problem, and using multipleresources. The results are promising because they give prospective teachers a powerfulapproach that fosters certain aspects of pedagogical problem solving. The implicationsof these results for prospective teachers are discussed.

    Keywords: Problem-Based Learning; pedagogical problem solving; teacher education;classroom research; quasi-experimental design

    Introduction

    Many educational reform movements call for preparing teachers to work through the diverseand complex problems that arise in the classroom and in pedagogy (Putnam and Borko 2000).Problem solving is difficult for teachers because of the complexity of the problems they face:managing the classroom, assessing learning, teaching to meet individual differences, andbuilding parentteacher relationships (Putnam and Borko 2000; Zeichner and Conklin 2005).Problem solving requires framing problems, considering multiple perspectives, arriving atsolutions, considering consequences, and reflecting on the decision (Harrington 1995;Hmelo-Silver and Barrows 2006; Mayer and Wittrock 2006). Teachers need strategies andstructures that connect theory with practice (Schwartz, Bransford, and Sears 2005). Withoutsuch strategies and structures, problems in the classroom become insurmountable (Zeichnerand Conklin 2005).

    Conceptual framework

    Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is aligned with the constructivist framework that viewslearning and teaching as the active and meaningful inquiry and building of knowledge bylearners. PBL fosters both inquiry- and knowledge-based approaches to problem solving. Asan inquiry-based approach, its focus is on helping professionals such as teachers work

    *Email: cdesimon@uottawa.ca

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    through authentic, complex problems or cases (Bereiter and Scardamalia 2006; Hmelo-Silver 2004). The cases simulate real-life classroom decision making (Brown, Collins, andDuguid 1989), including considering multiple perspectives, warranting solutions, assessingconsequences, and reflecting on decisions.

    In addition to preparing teachers for professional practice, PBL prepares them toconstruct a principled understanding of the issues in the problem case, so they learn to applyprinciples flexibly to problems of varying complexity (Bereiter and Scardamalia 2006) asopposed to merely tackling individual problems or problems that can easily be solved.Under the guidance of a probing mentor, members of small problem-solving groups workat identifying the central issue in the case, an essential initial phase in the problem-solvingprocess (Harrington 1995; Hmelo-Silver 2004). That is, they define the problem and thebasis for its identification as the problem. Understanding a problem allows the problemsolver to see underlying patterns and the big picture.

    PBL also requires that group members identify learning issues, that is, what needs to belearned to resolve the problem (Hmelo-Silver 2004; ODonnell 2006). Grounded in thecontext of their domain, the group must engage in a problem-solving sequence of seekinginformation from a variety of sources, justifying their decisions, discussing findings, andweighing consequences in order to construct a viable and possibly even innovativesolution. These skills and processes are vital in helping prospective teachers to build theirknowledge bases and see the underlying patterns and issues in their classrooms. Otherwise,they will deal with issues in isolation and, eventually, experience difficulty in their class-rooms (Shulman 1987; Spiro et al. 1987).

    The expert facilitator has an important function as the groups work through their learningissues. Under the guidance of the expert facilitator, drawing from the literature and practice,group members engage in questioning, revising, and entertaining various views of the issuesthey uncovered within the case. These processes are critical to connecting possible solutionsto the problem and evaluating those solutions, two components of problem solving that bothprospective and new teachers find difficult (Harrington 1995; Hmelo-Silver 2004). Prospec-tive teachers should be able to ground their decisions in the literature and to scrutinize thatliterature, in addition to any information that they can garner from their own experiences(Hmelo-Silver and Barrows 2006). The PBL process helps prospective teachers develop abroader, more principled understanding of classroom and pedagogical issues.

    As part of fostering the knowledge-building function of problem-based learning inprospective teachers, the study cases must be presented in multiple contexts so that they canbe revisited from multiple perspectives and purposes. According to researchers (e.g., Spiroet al. 1992), this approach helps prospective teachers form networks of ideas and seepatterns across problems and issues so they extend and transfer their thinking from whatthey encounter in the university to their work as teachers. Thus, problem-based learning letsprospective teachers create a rich foundation for solving similar or more serious problemsin the classroom. In other words, problem-based learning prepares them for their futurelearning (Schwartz, Bransford, and Sears 2005).

    Relevant scholarly literature

    Problem-based learning has been a valuable pedagogical strategy in medical education for30 years (Barrows and Tamblyn 1980; Gijbels et al. 2005; Walton and Matthews 1989). Ithas become increasingly popular in teacher education since the 1980s (Lambert and Ball1998; Merseth 1996). Researchers have followed two major strands of studies. The first arerich qualitative studies exploring how members of a PBL group collaborate and what affects

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  • Teacher Development 181

    their collaboration (Hmelo-Silver and Barrows 2006), how the nature of the dialogue affectslearners motivation, the quality of PBL cases (Hung 2006), and implementation issues(Ertmer and Simons 2006). The other are studies of PBL in teacher education which havefocused on several innovative descriptions, sometimes involving pre-test and post-testdesign but no control group (Hmelo-Silver 2000; Levin, Hibbard, and Rock 2002; Petersonand Treagust 1998; Torp and Sage 2002).

    Unlike medicine, where entire curricula have adopted problem-based learning andexperimental strategies to assess its effectiveness are prominent, in education we typicallyfind one instructor implementing PBL using a pre-test and post-test design. Perhaps, aseducators, we assume the testing and evaluation of strategies is not as important as it is inmedicine, or it may be that education professors do not get support to try educational inno-vations and fear taking risks in case things go wrong and affect their prospects for renewaland promotion. It is critical, however, to assess PBLs effectiveness in teacher education.

    Because in education we cannot conduct true experiments, with random selection andassignment, we use quasi-experimental designs with a control group and pre-measures tocompensate (Creswell 2006). The present study addresses the effectiveness of problem-based learning compared to a more traditional approach to teacher education by using acontrol group. The research design of choice is quasi-experimentation (Tabachnick andFidell 2001).

    Using the quasi-experimental design, the main question was Are prospective teacherstrained with problem-based learning better able to engage in problem solving than those nottrained in using PBL? and used the definitions of problem solving delineated in Bransfordand Stein (1984), Harrington (1995), and Hmelo-Silver (2002). I examined prospectiveteachers abilities to (a) generate varied questions, (b) identify the central problem, (c) statethe problem definition, (d) relate the solution to the problem, (e) evaluate the solution, (f)provide a feasible solution, (g) use the literature to support their solution, and (h) use otherresources to support their solution.

    Method

    Participants

    The participants were prospective teachers enrolled in a one-year teacher educationprogram, who were required to take an introductory educational psychology course (alsoreferred to as a learning processes course). One of the classes was the experimental group(n = 38); the other was the control group (n = 38). The majority of the students in bothsections were English-speaking females (average age 32). The experimental group had fourmale participants (average age 26) while the control group had five male participants(average age 23). Both classes met during the winter session. To control for teacher andresources effects, I taught both classes. I used the same reading materials and resourceswith both classes. To minimize carry-over effects between the two conditions, I scheduledthe sections on consecutive days of the week, the control class earlier and the experimentalclass later. In addition, a research assistant and I developed instructional plans for eachcondition to serve as guides when teaching. Any deviations and the reasons for them wererecorded by me after the class session and discussed with the research assistant. Unfortu-nately, classroom observations of implementation fidelity of both the experimental andcontrol conditions were not feasible. Neither could we monitor if students from eithercondition communicated about their class activities. The advantage, however, was that bothgroups shared many similarities that gave them the appearance that something new washappening in both conditions.

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    Design and measures

    This study took advantage of two intact groups of prospective teachers. My main objec-tive was to compare the effectiveness of problem-based learning to a more traditionalproblem-solving approach. In order to reach this objective, an explicit manipulation wasintroduced (PBL vs. traditional) and appropriate steps to control extraneous factors in thedesign, implementation and measures were taken so that statistical inferences could bedrawn. Thus, this study design was a quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test with a controlgroup. The pre-test, a case called A Serious Illness, measured the participants baselineproblem-solving abilities. The main dependent measure was solving the problem of apost-training case, Youre Not in My Group (Durkin 2002). Participants in both groupswere instructed (a) to comment on the appropriateness of the teachers actions orthoughts, (b) to describe and give reasons for their approach and (c) to list the advantagesand disadvantages of their recommendations. In their responses, they were to include theproblem-solving components. Participants were scored on their ability to (a) generatequestions that they would like to ask the teacher, (b) identify the problem, (c) state theproblem definition, (d) relate the solution to the problem, (e) evaluate the solution, (e)provide a solution, (f) use the literature to support that solution, and (g) use otherresources to support that solution. Although participants were permitted to work with theirgroup members or peers, each student was required to submit his or her own analysis.Responses were limited to 1000 words.

    Description of cases

    Training cases

    It is critical that the cases used in PBL be authentic, relevant and ill-defined (i.e., there arenumerous ways of approaching the problem as well as diverse responses). They must alsorequire the problem solver to draw upon multiple sources and perspectives. To ensure thatthese criteria were satisfied, the cases, drawn from a textbook of Canadian cases (Durkin2002), were an integral part of the course, and I had used them before (De Simone in press).To ensure that the cases embodied issues that university teacher education professors andpractitioners considered important, they were previewed by a group of in-service teachers,who were also mentoring the teacher education students.

    The in-service teachers read through the cases, then rated each one on a scale of 1 to 7according to a formula adapted from Kain (1997). To be acceptable, a case had to (a) beauthentic (the teacher believes that it could be or is an actual event), (b) be ill-defined, (c)require research (the problem needs information beyond the text), and (d) have significance(the problem has meaning). Eight of the cases were rated either 6 or 7 and were selected fortraining purposes. The cases varied in length from 500 to 1000 words and covered assessment,individual differences and classroom management. The judges also described the issues theythought each case covered, as a way to link the course readings to the issues. Some caseswere re-introduced as different topics came up because they exemplified several educationalpsychology concepts. The intention was to help prospective teachers see that multipleconcepts could explain what was going on in a case.

    Assessment cases

    I had used the assessment cases in a prior study (De Simone in press), and they were judgedby the same criteria. They were of comparable length, but the subject matter, the issue of

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    individual differences, was different. The pre-test case, A Serious Illness (Durkin 2002,157), described a situation in which a teacher is asked to balance the needs of a terminallyill child with the needs of the rest of the class. According to the panel of teachers whoreviewed the case, new teachers generally have a difficult time reconciling individuallearner needs with group needs. The post-test case, Youre Not in My Group (Durkin2002, 155), dealt with the effects of misapplying cooperative learning to children ofdifferent backgrounds.

    In an earlier study (De Simone in press), a research assistant and I segmented both pre-test and post-test cases into idea units consisting of a concept, a relationship, and anotherconcept, to form a simple sentence expressing one idea (Mayer 1989). Both cases containedabout the same number of idea units (67 and 72), but the baseline case had 51 facts and 17opinions, while the post-test case had 39 facts and 33 opinions. Therefore, the post-test casecould require participants to make more inferences and was more difficult than the pre-testcase. However, I kept the two cases because the panel of in-service teachers rated them ascomplex and authentic. The cases also required the participants to think beyond theinformation presented and to draw from multiple sources of information to work throughthe problem. The cases were also well suited to the topics discussed in the educationalpsychology course. According to the literature, these characteristics make for goodproblem-based learning cases (Hmelo-Silver 2004). Both cases also contained appendices:a class roster, a brief description of each child in the case, and additional information on thatchild (e.g., medical records and psychological tests as appropriate). This extra informationadds to the authenticity of the case because teachers must sift through irrelevant and relevantinformation to decipher the main issues (Hmelo-Silver 2004).

    Case design

    I developed a curriculum matrix to illustrate the topics normally covered in an educationalpsychology course (see Table 1) and cases to exemplify the issues presented by the topics.This was to help prospective teachers foster a sense of continuity in learning and give them

    Table 1. Curriculum matrix of topics by cases.

    Main Topic Sub-topic Bill and Evan Emily Peter Carlos

    Human Development Principles of Cognitive Development and Language

    X

    Principles of Personal, Social, and Emotional Development

    X X X

    Individual Variations Principles of Learner Differences X X XLearning Theory and

    PracticePrinciples of Behavioral Views of

    LearningX X X

    Principles of Cognitive Views of Learning

    X X X

    Complex Cognitive Processes X X XPrinciples of Social Cognitive and

    Constructivist Views of LearningX X X

    Motivation, Management, and Teaching

    Motivation: Issues and Explanations X X

    Creating Learning Environments X X X XTeaching for Learning X

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    the opportunity to transfer their learning across topics and cases, as opposed to learningdiscrete bits of information (Spiro et al. 1992).

    Instruction: PBL and traditional instruction

    Classes for both experimental and control conditions met 12 times during the study, forthree hours a week. The same course objectives and reading materials were used in bothconditions.

    In the problem-based learning class, I gave mini-lectures on educational psychology andtrained the students to analyze classroom problems in small groups. To probe their priorknowledge and experiences, mini-lectures were typically given after students had discussedtheir learning issues. In fact, their discussions often provided the content for these lectures.Sometimes, when the groups had many questions about basic definitions, I started thesession with the mini-lecture.

    Further, Hmelo-Silver, an expert in PBL, was scheduled to conduct the PBL trainingwith the experimental group and began the first hour of the session by modeling the prob-lem-based learning process. She discussed the case and demonstrated PBL activities, suchas summarizing the dialogue for the group, helping them to generate hypotheses about thecase, constructing the essential problem, and showing them how to consider various theoriesand issues. In the second and third hours, Hmelo-Silver encouraged group members to actas summarizers, making predictions and drawing from the literature and their practice tointerpret the case. She began with summarizing, asking the model students to report on whatthey already knew and what needed to be learned. Then, she asked them to make predictionsbased on what they knew. Finally, she helped them explore the broader implications of thecase. In addition, she elicited questions from the audience about the PBL process and aboutthe case itself.

    After this initial modeling, the class was divided into 10 groups: nine groups consistedof four members, and one group had three (n = 38). When classes are very small, then theexpert at both the content and PBL is the facilitator. However, because this was a large class,the expert facilitator (first Hmelo-Silver, then the instructor) wandered among the groups.A wandering facilitator relies on student facilitators to fill them in (Hmelo-Silver 2004).In each group, one student acted as a facilitator whose task was to ensure that the group keptits deadlines and performed its tasks while making such requests as Tell me more, Canyou show me an example? or How about if we consider the case from this perspective?

    Small-group discussions allowed students to give each other feedback on their summa-rizing, probing and elaborating while they discussed, analyzed, and solved the problem.Groups were provided with large Post-It Notes, which they divided into the followingcolumns: basic facts of the case, central problem, and learning issues.

    I used the information on the Post-It Notes to gauge the students understanding of theessential elements of the case and to monitor their progress. Following the small-group work,students and teacher engaged in large-group discussion to comment on each others problemanalyses. I used this opportunity to relate ideas, principles and practices in educationalpsychology to elements of the case.

    To help students support their ideas and gather information, the Faculty of Educationshead librarian conducted one three-hour session to maximize students use of libraryresources. To equalize the two groups ability to use library tools, students in the controlcondition attended the same library workshop as those in the experimental condition.

    The control class used the same cases, and I used them for my lectures, either as examplesof a concept or, at the end of the lecture, as an opportunity for students to practice applying

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  • Teacher Development 185

    the concepts discussed. The control students did not work on any formalized group activities.However, they were divided into groups and instructed to discuss their case analyses. Duringclass, I assisted students if they were having difficulty or if they seemed to be at an impasse.If they were, I asked them to summarize where they were, pose questions, or think aboutalternative perspectives.

    Procedure

    Problem-based learning was an integral part of the learning processes course. On the firstand second days of the course, after students had consented to participate in the study, studentsin both the experimental and control conditions completed a demographics questionnaire anda pedagogical content questionnaire. They then began work on their pre-test case, A VerySerious Illness. In the first session, each student wrote an individual preliminary analysisof the case. The prompt was as follows: Comment on the appropriateness of this teachersactions and describe and defend what approach you would have taken in this situation.

    Then students met in their groups to discuss the individual preliminary analyses andgenerate the learning issues (the list of facts and concepts that needed further explorationand resources that would be needed). The students wrote this information on the Post-ItNotes, which they could stick on the wall. For homework, they worked on different parts ofthe learning issues, which they brought to class and discussed. Through collective deliber-ation, they constructed a workable solution. The instructor/researcher also conducted amini-review of educational psychology as it related to the case and answered remainingquestions. At the end, students submitted their analyses. Their protocols were then scoredaccording to the rubric in the Appendix.

    The third through tenth classes for the experimental participants comprised trainingsessions in problem-based learning.

    At the end of the 12-week semester, all students received the post-test case Youre Notin My Group, which they completed in the same manner as the pre-test.

    Scoring procedure

    Using a scoring technique from an earlier study (De Simone in press), I trained two researchassistants who were blind to the participants experimental condition to score the problem-solving protocols. Participants problem-solving responses were rated on a scale of 0 to 3(see Appendix). Inter-rater reliability of 20% of the data was computed, yielding 87%agreement. The two raters discussed any disagreements that emerged and, if required, hadthe disagreements resolved by a third person.

    Results

    A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was determined to be the optimal methodof analyzing the data for the following reasons: (a) the existence of a conceptual relationshipbetween the components of problem solving, (b) the components moderate statistical corre-lation, and (c) independent t tests to assess initial group differences were not statisticallysignificant (Bonferonni adjustment, all p > .01) (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001; D. Trum-power, personal communication 5 April 2007). Moreover, there were no outliers or missingdata to skew the data; the homogeneity of variance and co-variance were met as were theassumption of normality and linearity (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001). The multivariateanalysis of variances was conducted to answer the research question Are prospective

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    teachers trained with PBL better able to engage in problem solving than those not trained inPBL? where condition (experimental vs. control) was the between-group factor. Thedependent measures were the eight post-test scores of the problem-solving process.

    The results showed that there was an overall condition effect which was significant(based on Pillai criterion: F(7,68) = 7.51, p = .001). The results demonstrated that the PBLgroup significantly surpassed the more traditional approach in four areas of problem solv-ing at the post-test: identification of the central issue/problem F(1,74) = 14.86, p = .001;quality of problem definition F(1,74) = 24.59, p = .001; relationship of the solution to theproblem F(1,75) = 9.45, p = .003; and use of resources F(1,75) = 28.74, p = .001. For theseproblem-solving components, examining the means revealed that the experimental groupsignificantly surpassed the control group at the post-test (see Table 2).

    Moreover, not only was there a statistically significant mean difference in these fourcomponents of problem solving between the two groups, there was also a substantiallymoderate effect size (partial eta .436). That is, the magnitude of the difference between thePBL and traditional conditions is considered to be substantial (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001).

    Discussion

    The main goal of this investigation was to go beyond descriptive studies of problem-basedlearning and instead examine its effectiveness vis--vis pedagogical problem solving inprospective teachers who did not receive PBL training. Answering this fundamentalquestion of whether the strategy works could have a significant impact on the field ofteacher education.

    Conducting experimental studies in education is important because they allow us toassess critical skills in potential new teachers, such as, in this case, their ability to solveproblems and to establish whether problem-based learning enhances it. To date, PBL ineducation has typically been examined without an adequate control group, but this studyboth included a control group and compared the treatment effect between the two groups.

    Table 2. Means and standard deviations for seven components of problem solving during post-testfor experimental and control groups.

    Component of Problem Solving Mean SD n

    Post 1 Exp 2.61 .495 38Control 2.18 .457 38

    Post 2 Exp 2.42 .552 38Control 2.26 .601 38

    Post 3** Exp 2.63 .675 38Control 1.87 .665 38

    Post 4* Exp 2.45 .602 38Control 2.03 .592 38

    Post 5 Exp 2.29 .515 38Control 2.16 .547 38

    Post 6 Exp 2.29 .835 38Control 2.03 .753 38

    Sources** Exp 2.52 .568 38Control 1.69 .783 38

    Note: *p < .01; **p < .001.

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    Four components of problem solving were statistically significant in favor of theexperimental group. They (a) were better at identifying the main problem/issue, (b) hadhigher-quality problem definitions, (c) related the solution to the problem well, and (d) usedresources more effectively. The magnitude of the differences was substantial. The fact therewas a substantial treatment effect between the two conditions is promising because it tellsus that, although PBL is a resource-intensive strategy, it is worth the investment, especiallywhen the issue at hand is a critical one: prospective teachers ability to solve problems.

    New teachers are often swayed by urgent, but not necessarily important, problems.Consequently, they end up attending to symptoms of problems rather than the causes(Schwartz, Bransford, and Sears 2005). The ability to correctly identify a problem, anddefine it well, are both critical to managing an issue. The probing that occurs between peersand expert facilitators in problem-based learning enables prospective teachers to view thecase from different and deeper perspectives.

    Harrington (1995) and Kuhn (1991) have shown that, at least among novices, there isoften a disconnect between solutions proposed and the problems defined. In this study, thePBL group did better than did its control counterpart in relating the problem to the solution.It seems, however, that group discussion alone does not connect the problem to the solution,since both groups participated in discussion. It is more likely, although this can only beinferred from the quantitative data, that the prospective teachers in the PBL condition wereable to ask for clarifications, revisions, and supporting evidence. These activities maketeachers aware of the limitation of their own thinking by considering the pros and cons oftheir pedagogical decisions (Greening 1998).

    Finally, the fact the problem-based learning group did better on the use of resources thanthe control group did tells us that one of the strengths of PBL is to introduce and familiarizelearners with the use of more than one resource and to deal with more than one perspective.The informal comments and observations from students revealed that it was difficult forthem cognitively to manage several sources of information simultaneously, make sense ofit, and present it to their groups for discussion. However, this is an essential skill to fosterin practice because teachers have to deal with multiple sources of information, interpreta-tions and perspectives while interacting with parents, children in the class, and even thecommunity.

    Other components of problem solving, such as evaluating the consequences of the solu-tion and its feasibility, did not show statistically significant results; however, the means werein the predicted directions (see Table 2). In a previous study (De Simone in press), thesemeasures reached statistical significance. One of the differences between the participants inthis study and those in the previous one is that participants in the earlier study had moretraining in the classroom context and, therefore, may have been more adept at assessing theirsolutions.

    Conclusions and implications

    The results of this study point to the merit of using a causal-comparison design to addressbasic issues of the effectiveness of problem-based learning and the degree to which it iseffective. Teaching teachers is a complex analytical and integrative enterprise that must beconcerned not only with day-to-day activities but also with the entire teaching landscape.Professionals such as teachers face a particular struggle in eliminating the divide betweenpractice and theory. Problem-based learning, with its emphasis on both scholarship andteaching practice, can accomplish this goal. In problem-based learning, the synergy betweentheory and practice fosters prospective teachers problem solving, especially their ability to

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  • 188 C. De Simone

    define the problem, generate solutions, and use both practical and literature-based resourcesto support the solution.

    While the design, planning, and implementation of problem-based learning is expensive,it is a powerful strategy for teaching in complex, collaborative systems. However, havingonly one professor teach it in a large faculty is simply not sufficient and was an obstacle inthis study that affects both the implementation of the strategy and the extent to whichprospective teachers can benefit from PBL. We must find ways to make teaching PBLaffordable. Otherwise, it will be accessible only to a privileged few.

    The next issue in this line of inquiry is the long-term use of problem-based learning.More research is needed on the extent to which teachers draw upon problem-based learningin the longer term when they are in practice as professionals to work through pedagogicaland classroom problems, and also on what factors foster or challenge the extent of their useof problem-based learning strategies. This next line of inquiry would draw upon both quan-titative and qualitative approaches.

    AcknowledgementsThe work was supported by a University of Ottawa, Faculty of Education internal grant and by theFonds qubecois de la recherche sur la socit et la culture (FQRSC) awarded to the author. I amgreatly indebted to Paul Davis for his invaluable assistance throughout this study and to Dr CindyHmelo-Silver for conducting the training in problem-based learning.

    Notes on contributorChristina De Simone is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University ofOttawa, in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of research are in Problem-Based Learning, problem solv-ing, cognitive transfer, and teacher education. Other publications which represent her work are:Problem-based learning and prospective teachers: Implications for problem solving and practiceJournal of Excellence in College Teaching (in press); Concept Mapping: A flexible tool foruniversity students College Teaching (2007, Volume 55, 33-37); and De Simone and R.F Schmid,Networking from the inside out: Understanding learners processes, activities, and experiencesEducational Research and Evaluation Special Issue on Postsecondary Education (2004, Volume10, 523-549).

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    Researcher 18, no. 1: 3242.Creswell, J.W. 2006. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. 2nd

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  • 190 C. De Simone

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  • Teacher Development 191

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