Problem-Based Learning in Science Education: Achievements, Pitfalls and Ways Forward

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2024) | Viewed by 11629

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Institute of Education, Research Center on Education, University of Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
Interests: problem-based learning in science; science teacher education for problem-based learning; science curriculum materials and problem-based learning; context-based learning; history of science in science education
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Education, Research Center on Education, University of Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
Interests: problem-based learning in science; science teacher education for problem-based learning; science curriculum materials and problem-based learning; context-based learning; teaching science outside the classroom
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered learning approach that was developed in the 1960s within the scope of medical schools. By focusing on real-world problems, which are interdisciplinary in nature, PBL enables students to develop knowledge and learning competences,as well as individual and social abilities that are relevant for 21st century citizens. PBL has been used in a diverse range of areas, namely science education. Implementing PBL in science education requires teachers and students to change their own ways of learning, teaching, evaluating and assessing.

The Special Issue seeks papers focused on achievements, pitfalls and ways forward in PBL in science education. It will address the contribution of PBL in science to a wide range of learning outcomes, the challenges posed to science teachers and students in both face-to-face and digital environments and success and failure in particular contexts or with special groups.

Welcome topics for submission include the following:

  • Foundations and relevance of PBL for science education;
  • The state of the art of PBL in science education;
  • Teaching and learning science through PBL;
  • STEM education through PBL;
  • Online PBL in science;
  • Inclusion through PBL in science;
  • Development of pupils’ abilities through PBL in science;
  • Teacher education for teaching science through PBL;
  • Evaluating and assessing students’ learning of science in PBL contexts.

Prof. Dr. Laurinda Leite
Dr. Luís Dourado
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • PBL in science
  • STEM education through PBL
  • science teacher education for PBL
  • online science PBL
  • inclusion through PBL in science: developing students’ abilities through PBL
  • designing PBL in science
  • monitoring PBL in science
  • evaluating science learning in PBL environments

Related Special Issue

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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20 pages, 328 KiB  
Article
Understanding Science Teachers’ Integration of Active Methodologies in Club Settings: An Exploratory Study
by Jorge Martín-García, María Eugenia Dies Álvarez and Ana Sofia Afonso
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010106 - 18 Jan 2024
Viewed by 930
Abstract
This study analyses if school science clubs may serve as a resource to facilitate the introduction of active methodologies into science classrooms. Focusing on science clubs in Portuguese schools, this study aims to determine whether the teachers who coordinate and direct these clubs [...] Read more.
This study analyses if school science clubs may serve as a resource to facilitate the introduction of active methodologies into science classrooms. Focusing on science clubs in Portuguese schools, this study aims to determine whether the teachers who coordinate and direct these clubs promote activities that incorporate aspects of problem-based learning and project-based learning methodologies. In order to do so, a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 teachers, and their responses were analysed using content analysis strategies. The results show that although they do not explicitly refer to the use of these methodologies, teachers do propose the implementation of projects within clubs, and they incorporate aspects of these strategies in the activities they conduct. In this sense, teachers appreciate the role of clubs in promoting these types of strategies (PBL y PjBL) and the facilities they offer for their implementation. Additionally, teachers believe that one can only learn how to do projects through practise, i.e., doing projects with their students, and they think that clubs offer an opportunity to develop PBL and PjBL methodologies in a context free from the responsibilities and constraints of the classroom. Full article
13 pages, 277 KiB  
Article
Nature-Based Solutions and the Decline of Pollution: Solving Problems to Learn Sustainable Development Goals
by Clara Vasconcelos and Tânia Pinto
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1135; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111135 - 13 Nov 2023
Viewed by 713
Abstract
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important issues that should be learned about in school, particularly those related to sustainable cities and communities. Target 6 of the 11th Goal mentions the special attention that should be paid to air quality. Nature-based solutions are [...] Read more.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important issues that should be learned about in school, particularly those related to sustainable cities and communities. Target 6 of the 11th Goal mentions the special attention that should be paid to air quality. Nature-based solutions are a current theme that should be learned in school to empower students to contribute to planetary sustainability. In this context, a pedagogical intervention was developed through problem-based learning addressing air pollution. After two lessons of 50 min each, students presented a worksheet answered in groups, a group snapshot reflection, and the results of filling out a digital mural before and after the intervention. After a content analysis, the results of this evaluation study were reflected in the 105 students’ increasing knowledge about nature-based solutions to improve air quality. A positive appreciation of problem-based learning as an active methodology that motivates and increases students’ participation was also referred to. Full article
13 pages, 278 KiB  
Article
Teacher Educators Experience Adopting Problem-Based Learning in Science Education
by Benjamin Aidoo
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1113; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111113 - 06 Nov 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1475
Abstract
Higher educational institutions have utilized problem-based learning (PBL) approaches over the last two decades. The approach has been found to enable educators to adopt different teaching and learning strategies. This study examined how teacher educators have adopted technology integrated PBL in teacher education. [...] Read more.
Higher educational institutions have utilized problem-based learning (PBL) approaches over the last two decades. The approach has been found to enable educators to adopt different teaching and learning strategies. This study examined how teacher educators have adopted technology integrated PBL in teacher education. The study aimed to understand teacher educators perceptions of adopting the approach in their classrooms. Interviews were conducted with three teacher educators in Ghana. A thematic analysis was used to analyse the data from the interviews. The teacher educators believed integrating PBL into the curriculum emphasizes students learning roles to support their independent and self-directed learning. They also perceived that the PBL approach enabled them to create collaborative learning activities to interact and communicate with students, which can lead to conceptual knowledge development. The educators also indicated challenges such as a lack of beliefs and competence, inadequate resources, and limited time allocation for school inquiry-based lessons. Full article
13 pages, 1102 KiB  
Article
Science Skills Development through Problem-Based Learning in Secondary Education
by Jorge Pozuelo-Muñoz, Elena Calvo-Zueco, Ester Sánchez-Sánchez and Esther Cascarosa-Salillas
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1096; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111096 - 30 Oct 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1270
Abstract
We present a study carried out with 16-year-old students in Spain using a problem-based learning approach as a pedagogical mode to develop science skills. The main objective of this work was to analyze the development of science skills through an inquiry process in [...] Read more.
We present a study carried out with 16-year-old students in Spain using a problem-based learning approach as a pedagogical mode to develop science skills. The main objective of this work was to analyze the development of science skills through an inquiry process in class. The data were collected through audio and video recordings. The students were given the freedom to choose a problem to solve, and they decided on a near-environmental problem to research. They suggested a research question, formulated a hypothesis, designed experiments, observed, collected data, and searched for information. The teacher acted as a facilitator of resources. Finally, the students communicated the results obtained in their inquiry process. They performed all the above while asking themselves questions they had to answer during the course of the project, which increased in depth as the work evolved. The results of this research present PBL as an optimal methodology to develop scientific skills, such as inquiry practice, by means of asking questions. Full article
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22 pages, 2905 KiB  
Article
Evaluating a Secondary Education Urban Ecology Project within the Framework of a Problem-Based Learning Methodology
by Joaquin Ayerbe-López and Francisco Javier Perales-Palacios
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(9), 915; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13090915 - 08 Sep 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 683
Abstract
As a reaction to the current situation of local and global environmental deterioration, recent decades have seen the emergence of multiple educational strategies and methodologies within Environmental Education (EE) with the aim of promoting pro-environmental attitudes among young people. One of these strategies [...] Read more.
As a reaction to the current situation of local and global environmental deterioration, recent decades have seen the emergence of multiple educational strategies and methodologies within Environmental Education (EE) with the aim of promoting pro-environmental attitudes among young people. One of these strategies is Problem-Based Learning (PBL), and it is necessary to analyze the didactic implications of this methodology in the field of EE in order to maximize its effectiveness. This study evaluates the implementation and didactic implications of an environmental project designed under the PBL methodology. The project was carried out over consecutive years of compulsory secondary education (Grades 9 and 10) in two secondary schools in the province of Granada, Spain. The data collection instruments used included the researcher’s diary, self-assessment and reflection questionnaires for the participating students, and questionnaires and rubrics completed by the audience during the presentation of the final product. The study employed a qualitative interpretative approach, using response categorization and SWOT analyses, the results of which revealed multiple conclusions, highlighting the high level of motivation, work and participation of the students, as well as the didactic benefits of the enriching socialization of the project. Difficulties, such as time management and cooperative group work, lack of practice in the methodology used and challenges related to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), were also identified. Finally, recommendations are provided for the application of this methodology in other educational contexts. Full article
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15 pages, 1051 KiB  
Article
Digital Redesign of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) from Face-to-Face to Synchronous Online in Biomedical Sciences MSc Courses and the Student Perspective
by Stella A. Nicolaou and Ioanna Petrou
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(8), 850; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13080850 - 20 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 994
Abstract
PBL is a widely used teaching approach that is increasingly incorporating digital components. Although, by its nature, a face-to-face approach is the preferred mode of delivery, its digital counterpart is gaining ground. The current paper discusses the digital redesign of PBL in an [...] Read more.
PBL is a widely used teaching approach that is increasingly incorporating digital components. Although, by its nature, a face-to-face approach is the preferred mode of delivery, its digital counterpart is gaining ground. The current paper discusses the digital redesign of PBL in an MSc in Biomedical Sciences. Face-to-face and online PBL followed the seven steps of the PBL process, and each case was completed in three sessions. For the delivery of online PBL, collaborative tools were utilized, including CiscoWebex, the online platform for synchronous meetings, and OneDrive, shareable PPT, and Moodle for synchronous and asynchronous self-directed learning. Three cohorts were followed, and students had both face-to-face and online PBL experiences. Student feedback was obtained using focus groups, and data analysis utilized a deductive and inductive approach. Our data indicate that CiscoWebex is a suitable and user-friendly platform for synchronous online PBL. The students enjoyed both formats and stated that online PBL is an effective teaching approach for promoting student learning. In regards to student interaction, the face-to-face mode was preferred, while online PBL was perceived as more organized. The redesign allowed for effective student learning and could pave the way forward for a fully online MSc program in Biomedical Sciences. Full article
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Review

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12 pages, 234 KiB  
Review
Using Cooperative Learning to Enhance Students’ Learning and Engagement during Inquiry-Based Science
by Robyn M. Gillies
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(12), 1242; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13121242 - 15 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1668
Abstract
Much attention over the last two decades has been given to inquiry-based learning in science as a way of capturing students’ interest and participation in learning. However, while the research on inquiry-based learning consistently demonstrates that students do attain higher learning outcomes than [...] Read more.
Much attention over the last two decades has been given to inquiry-based learning in science as a way of capturing students’ interest and participation in learning. However, while the research on inquiry-based learning consistently demonstrates that students do attain higher learning outcomes than peers who are taught by traditional transmission approaches, little research has been attached to researching the key elements of this approach that contribute to its success. This review focuses on the role of inquiry-based learning where students work in cooperative groups to investigate topics that challenge their curiosity, encouraging them to ask questions to clarify their understandings, evaluate evidence that may help to explain phenomena, and predict potential solutions to the problems at hand. The key role teachers play in inducting students into ways of thinking and reasoning and providing opportunities for them to work with others in the context of inquiry-based learning will also be discussed. Full article
13 pages, 2193 KiB  
Review
Virtual Galleries as Learning Scaffolds for Promoting Problem-Based Learning
by Chrissa Papasarantou, Rene Alimisi and Dimitris Alimisis
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(12), 1168; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13121168 - 22 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1008
Abstract
Extensive research into the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL) in primary and secondary education has been carried out over the past few years. PBL is an appealing, promising, but also challenging educational approach for both students and teachers. To overcome challenges, one of [...] Read more.
Extensive research into the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL) in primary and secondary education has been carried out over the past few years. PBL is an appealing, promising, but also challenging educational approach for both students and teachers. To overcome challenges, one of the most popular proposed strategies is to build learning scaffolds that gradually help students to effectively resolve the emerging sub-problems and tasks. Moreover, the massive impact of technology on students’ lives, and the transition from in-person to distance teaching (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) highlights the necessity of using virtual worlds and digital tools to facilitate and amplify collaboration and communication, both synchronously and asynchronously. This paper introduces the virtual galleries method as a scaffold for applying PBL approaches in both physical and distance learning environments, within the field of STEM education. Virtual galleries are perceived as a practice that motivates learners to collaborate, express their ideas on solving a problem, and present them as interactive and immersive experiences, while allowing others (peer-learners and educators) to evaluate the produced solutions. In this context, it is argued that virtual galleries can facilitate PBL by serving as a conceptual framework for scaffolding the learning process, thus enabling the acquisition of new PBL-driven skills. Full article
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Other

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26 pages, 3011 KiB  
Systematic Review
Problem-Based Learning in Türkiye: A Systematic Literature Review of Research in Science Education
by Behiye Akcay and İbrahim Benek
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 330; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030330 - 20 Mar 2024
Viewed by 671
Abstract
This study aimed to conduct a systematic literature review of research to provide an overview of the key findings and trends in studies on problem-based learning within the context of science education in Türkiye. To achieve this goal, descriptive content analysis was used [...] Read more.
This study aimed to conduct a systematic literature review of research to provide an overview of the key findings and trends in studies on problem-based learning within the context of science education in Türkiye. To achieve this goal, descriptive content analysis was used in this study. Articles and graduate theses conducted in Türkiye between 2000 and December 2023 were included in this study. The Turkish Academic Network and Information Center (TR Dizin) and National Thesis Center databases were used to access the articles and theses. The purposive sampling method known as the criterion sampling method was employed in this study, resulting in the inclusion of 133 studies, including 37 articles and 96 graduate theses. To facilitate data analysis, we developed a coding form. The results of this study showed that PBL had a positive impact on 34 different skills, and it had no impact on 11 different skills. Across all reviewed studies, the most preferred research design was the quasi-experimental design. There was limited inclusion of final-year students in the samples at various school levels, and researchers mainly preferred physics subjects for their studies. Full article
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19 pages, 623 KiB  
Systematic Review
A Systematic Review of Preservice Science Teachers’ Experience of Problem-Based Learning and Implementing It in the Classroom
by Adewale Magaji, Michael Adjani and Samuel Coombes
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 301; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030301 - 13 Mar 2024
Viewed by 789
Abstract
This study investigates whether problem-based learning (PBL) is used in preservice science teachers’ education, how it develops their pedagogical approach, and what they understand about PBL and its implementation in the classroom. The study utilized a systematic review of the related literature in [...] Read more.
This study investigates whether problem-based learning (PBL) is used in preservice science teachers’ education, how it develops their pedagogical approach, and what they understand about PBL and its implementation in the classroom. The study utilized a systematic review of the related literature in the field of PBL, with a focus on preservice science teachers’ education. It used a specific search strategy to identify the literature following the inclusion and exclusion criteria, adhering to the PRISMA guidance and generating a flow diagram. In addition, the Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool was used to appraise the quality of the articles. The results show that PBL is not fully utilized in preservice science teachers’ training and just a few relevant articles have been published in this area. The study reveals that PBL is an effective pedagogical approach in teaching and learning and preservice science teachers should be engaged in the process of learning by taking part in the PBL design process and experiencing it in the classroom as students of their instructors to learn from the process. Continuing professional development would help preservice science teachers to develop the knowledge and skills to design and implement PBL in their classrooms. Full article
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