A “Big” PBL Problem: What Supports or Hinders Student Motivation?


This study examines student perceptions and motivations toward solving a “Big” Problem over multiple lessons in a problem-based learning (PBL) environment, both from student and staff perspective. It was conducted as a mixed-methods research, involving a quantitative student survey and qualitative in-depth interviews. The intervention used was a big problem introduced in ‘Qualitative Research Methods’ module where Year 2 polytechnic students were given 4 weeks to solve it. The online survey captured student (N=71) perceptions through three subscales- Intrinsic goal orientation, Extrinsic goal orientation and Self-Efficacy for Learning and Performance, adapted from Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (Duncan & McKeachie, 2005). It also included some open-ended questions to explore the reasons behind the responses. In-depth interviews were conducted with lecturers (N=2) to gather their perceptions of student engagement with a big problem, through observations in class and student reflection journals. Triangulating the findings, we infer that both staff and students see value in including big problems in the curriculum, despite facing some facilitation / problem solving challenges respectively. Further statistical analysis reveals, there is no correlation between mean motivation scores and assessment grades for this problem. The study gives educators the conviction to design big problems of higher difficulty, where relevant. It also provides researchers the impetus to conduct research to help staff and students adapt to big problems with a combined grade across multiple lessons. Follow-up research may be done to study student motivation towards large problems using other subscales such as task value, and/ across multiple disciplines.

Author Information
Shyamli Mehra, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore
Emilia Idris, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2020
Stream: Learning Experiences

This paper is part of the ACE2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Mehra S., & Idris E. (2021) A “Big” PBL Problem: What Supports or Hinders Student Motivation? ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2020: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2186-5892.2021.31
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2186-5892.2021.31

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon