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PBL in Aalborg, Denmark

PBL UNESCO Aalborg UniversityApril 3-4, 2013: Jane Ostrander & Judith Fredrickson, Truckee Meadows Community College, participated in a PBL workshop sponsored by the UNESCO PBL Chair at Aalborg University, Aalborg, DK. We were introduced to the Aalborg model of PBL. The University was founded as a PBL university. Each term students work in teams to develop and solve a semester long problem that meets set specifications of the curriculum and is 50% of their credits that term. The remaining credits are divided amongst more traditional lecture and smaller project courses, depending on the needs of the department.

In the PBL problem class faculty members serve as coordinators or facilitators, meeting weekly or biweekly with the teams to monitor progress but not provide the solution. Depending on the academic department, the problem may be a real-time problem put forth by a local employer or a problem selected from a book of problems identified by faculty. Either way, the students are responsible for setting the scope, goals, and deliverable details. Students take a class in their first term that introduces them to the process of solving problems, teamwork, project management, and other issues.

Judy Fredrickson met with a computer science professor and discussed their final exams that are a combination of team and individual presentations, team Q&A, and individual Q&A by a faculty member and an outside examiner (faculty from somewhere else or industry). We plan to create an intro to PBL course modeled on the Aalborg one, but ideally more of a just-in-time provider of information to students as they work their way through their problems.

Jane Ostrander met with Dr. Erik de Graaff and workshop participants from Norway, Russia, and Malaysia to discuss solutions to the challenges of getting faculty to change the way they teach. We agreed it takes a mindset change that starts with an awareness of how they currently teach compared with their role in problem-based learning and the benefits therein to the students.

The Aalborg PBL team is tentatively planning a train-the-trainer workshop for PBL in Summer 2014 in Halifax. Check back for details as they become available.

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