Integrating Experiential Problem-Based Learning into Executive Level Professional Programs
Concurrent Session 2
New York University, School of Professional Studies, has merged two contemporary learning theories in order to create a dynamic learning environment for executive level professionals seeking additional professional development. Combining experiential and problem-based learning theories has provided content developers and instructional designers a unique and innovative design framework for professional education that blends the experiences professionals bring with them to the classroom and ill-structured problem solving. Experiential Problem-Based Learning (EPBL) allowed for the overcoming of obstacles often reported in the literature by including best-practices in technology enhancements, faculty development and pedagogical advances. Classroom walls and silos are dissolved as real world problem solving and high level analysis become integrated into the learning environment. Faculty become facilitators as they present knowledge, lead critical discussions and provide feedback weekly that promotes cognitive growth and retention.
Since the late 20th century, leading educational researchers such as Chickering and Gamson (1987), Gagne (1985), and Merrill (2002) have observed that active learning strategies lead to more engaged learners and, therefore, improved learning will take place. Active learning strategies align with other validated teaching practices, such as engaged pedagogy (Edgerton, 2001; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson, 2005), student-centered learning, and interactive engagement. The strategies include approaches such as inquiry learning, problem- based learning, and collaborative learning, thus providing much needed support for the veracity of these strategies.
Current research regarding educational design embraces the real-world complexities and an iterative “development of solutions to practical and complex educational problems” within the context of empirical investigation (McKenny & Reeves, 2012, p. 7). While embracing complexity, educational design research does not attempt to remove or cleanse variation, but to provide “usable knowledge” for contexts that assume variability (Lagemann, 2002). As many design researchers explain, this leads to methodologically creative studies that are conducted in authentic settings (Allen, 2012) and that include designers’ abstracted experience and reflections about their designs (Kali, 2008). Similarly, while design research and theoretical modeling have been conducted for decades, very few studies address how instructional designers apply theories and models. This approach provides clear concepts maps that guide the designers and subject matter experts while combining multiple research-based best practices. The limited number of studies that have been completed indicate that instructional designers do not spend a majority of their time applying rigid models but may creatively utilize them to generally inform their varied and multivariate work (Kenny, et al., 2005). The proposed project will build on those prior studies to advance understanding of how curriculum design occurs, identify crucial and mediating factors within teaching and support services as they relate to learning in higher education, and evaluate the efficacy of various design approaches; this will result in the development of a model that can then be applied to improve academic outcomes, retention, and persistence in problem-based learning.
“The discipline of instructional design is concerned with prescribing optimal methods of instruction to bring out changes in student knowledge, skills, and thinking” (Reigeluch, 1984. p.4). Yet, instructional design value propositions are not widely understood in higher education. In practice, many decisions are made intuitively or unconsciously without referring to educational theory and strategy or acknowledging the tradeoffs, issues and values involved. As a result, college and university learning environments can include a highly diverse spectrum of approaches, which may unintentionally lead to inconsistencies, inefficiencies, or ineffective learning environments.
Through the certificate program development, proposed project, foundational understanding of how curriculum designers integrate technical, discipline-specific, educational and experiential knowledge and bring them to bear on complex learning challenges will be examined and the ability to enact evidence-based approaches increased. Several types of new knowledge the project will generate are a data-based understanding of the practical and interpersonal dynamics of curricular development, best practices for encouraging vital relationships between instructional designers and subject matter faculty, identification of crucial mediating factors in the process, and efficacy of various approaches, all areas in which the literature is very limited (National Research Council, 2012; Pan, et. al., 2003).
Image 1: Experiential Problem-Based Learning
As Feast (2012) advises, the design team will study how designers integrate the richness of past experiences, technical knowledge, and expertise and bring them to bear on complex learning challenges. This is important for students’ learning, for collaboration and efficiency in course design work, and for understanding the most effective approaches to improving education.
Since this research seeks to develop instructional design models that will improve curricular construction, teaching, and student learning outcomes, the following theoretical foundations underlie our research: action research and design research frameworks. We will use action research as an overarching framework for the entire project. Denscombe (2010, p. 6) states that an action research strategy's purpose is to solve a particular problem and to produce guidelines for best practice. Additionally, action research theoretical framework emphasizes community of practice. Both characteristics support the selection of action research as our overall framework in exploring how designers and researchers work with others to find a solution to practical problems.
Also, under the action research umbrella, we will use the design research theoretical framework and a grounded theory perspective. As stated by Wang and Hannafin (2005), design research is: “a systematic but flexible methodology aimed at improving educational practices through iterative analysis, design, development, and implementation, based on collaboration among researchers and practitioners in real-world settings…leading to contextually-sensitive design principles and theories” (p. 6). With this, we will apply the grounded theory perspective for identifying parameters of instructional design. Grounded theory develops a concept of the patterns and structures in the area of interest by constant comparison of existing information and data being accumulated. The process begins with an inductive approach generating theoretical constructs and continuing data collection further refines the developing theory while suggesting the next data sets to collect and progressively increasing the specificity of the research question(s) to ask.
This education session presentation will reveal the background on Experiential Problem-Based Learning, the research methodology, the technology integration strategies, the conceptual framework and the implementation protocols surrounding the learning experience. Those who will benefit from this presentation include faculty, instructional designers and program chairs at institutions of higher education as well as those from all levels of expertise. The session outcomes are as follows:
Attendees will examine the viability of the NYUSPS design framework for implementation at their institutions.
Attendees will explore minimizing barriers to adopting new pedagogical approaches in a multicultural environment utilizing technologies to enhance faculty and student orientations to Experiential Problem-Based Learning and teaching model
Attendees will compare and contrast the utilization of Experiential Problem-Based Learning environments with traditional teaching pedagogies.
Plans/Strategies to Engage Audience
Presenters will utilize the socratic method to challenge conventional norms regarding course design and delivery.
Presenters will engage attendees in a robust discussion.