Faculty of Business and Law
School of Management
Much of university teaching is grounded in a traditional or semi-traditional mode, that is it is lecturer centric and at least partly didactic. There are numerous reasons for this which include: a reluctance to change on the part of academics; the changing nature of the student demographic; an increasing emphasis on “education as a service”; risk averse behavior on the part of academics, academic managers fearing adverse student feedback and the financial imperatives which require the maximization of student progress and retention. It has been argued that “safe”, traditional approaches to pedagogy do not prepare students for the world of work. By contrast, problem based learning (PBL) exposes students to realistic scenarios which are often ill defined. However it seems that there is uncertainty about what PBL comprises and, for reasons hinted at above, some reluctance to implement it. This paper gives an introduction to PBL, critically discusses its relative merits and the barriers to its introduction. The author offers some suggestions for successful PBL implementation and concludes that PBL is a worthwhile exercise offering moderate benefits only in terms of academic outcomes but greater benefits in terms of personal development for students. The author also concludes that the diverse nature of tertiary education, academics and students make controlled experiments to prove the validity of PBL impractical.