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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Report submitted to PG Diploma in Practitioner Research Projects, DIT, 2018.


Traditional learning and assessment typically focus on students being told what to do, memorising it, and the teacher assigning a problem on how to use it (Savery, 2006). By contrast, in problem-based learning (PBL) and assessment a problem is assigned to a group or individual, the teacher then facilitates the students’ learning as they identify what they need to know, and the students learn and apply a solution to the problem (Savery, 2006). PBL was developed and pioneered by Barrows and Tamblyn in McMaster University as part of the Medical School programme due to students’ lack of application of their learning and disengagement with traditional teaching methods. Although primarily used in STEMM education, PBL has been found to be very effective in other areas of education and continues to be widely used in higher education (Dolmans et al., 2005). Given the evidence that PBL is an effective approach to learning, this report examines PBL as an alternative and more authentic assessment than the current exam-driven approach in a business school context. In this project, we examined three questions: (1) Is PBL an authentic assessment and alternative to the exam approach? (2) Does PBL help students in the development of DIT graduate attributes and research skills? (3) Is PBL useable and useful in the business school context? In analysing these three questions, we provide evidence based on the literature that PBL is an effective and authentic alternative to exam assessments and is adaptable to the business school context. In today’s ever changing and fast paced world, it is important that we have a learning approach and assessment that reflects the complexity of this new context (Awang & Ramly, 2008). Whilst exam-driven approaches focus on learning content, modern and novel approaches like PBL focus on both process and content. In doing so, students develop a more whole holistic approach to the topic that incorporates teamwork, originality and understanding. Similarly, in recent years, employers’ desired graduate attributes have shifted from specific to broader transferable skills such as communication skills, critical thinking, research skills etc. However, according to the World Economic Forum (2015), Ireland had lower percentages of critical thinking and creativity compared to other OECD countries. Thus, it is essential to develop a learning strategy that includes authentic assessment that is suitable and can adapt to the changing world of learning and work.