Problem-based learning: the unique Scandinavian pedagogic approach from a student’s perspective

Problem-based learning: the unique Scandinavian pedagogic approach from a student’s perspective

As an already graduate student from Aalborg University, I must say the PBL method was both challenging and rewarding for my personal and professional growth. Written by Desislava Kavaldzhieva

PBL

Project and problem-based learning or PBL is the Scandinavian pedagogic approach, used widely as a main university teaching method. It was first established in 1974 in Aalborg University and from there it received also the name “The Aalborg model”. In short, it is based on group-based project work, where the students, usually in a group of 4-5, work together to solve problems. Hence, they have a certain freedom to learn new theories, apply them in their projects and gain practical knowledge without the direct instructions from their teachers and/or supervisors.

In his recent book “Research Methodology: a project guide for university students”, John Kuada, defines PBL as an opponent to the traditional pedagogic approach, where the students are detached from the real-life cases and asked to follow the lecturers’ instructions and guidance, in order to solve a certain task or pass an exam. In contrast, PBL provides real-life experience, encourages students to define the root of the problems and design appropriate solutions. Within this process, teachers serve as facilitators, encouraging and supporting the group work1.

Challenging and rewarding

As an already graduate student from Aalborg University, I must say the PBL method was both challenging and rewarding for my personal and professional growth. The challenging part was mostly connected with having to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds and most of all agreeing on one problem and solution, in order to progress and finish the semester project. However, despite all the friendly arguments and sleepless nights, after every finished project I discovered my personal different strengths in the group work and of course weaknesses, which I was able to deal with within the next one. Thus, in the end of my education, I did not only graduate within a Master’s degree, but as well as with a toolbox of project management, organizational and communicational skills, with have been gained working on solving real-life cases. The last, I will do inevitably within my future professional career. Moreover, in order to present a variety of opinions, in relation to PBL, I asked students with different nationalities to share their opinion. It turns out that they have similar views.

‘Open’ style of learning

Georgi Marchev, a master student in the program Human Centered Informatics at Aalborg University, defines PBL as “a very practically oriented and close to the real life problem solving experience”. According to him PBL is a “much more ‘open’ style of learning where the student himself has to find his way of working around it… and actively involved in creating his own knowledge by continuously reflecting on the information and adapting it to the current problem case he is working with.” This opinion is shared as well by Teresa Elise Møller, a bachelor student in English language and International Studies (SIS), who considers the method to give freedom and independence and “makes better and more intuitive students who also know how to structure their own time”. However, both Teresa and Georgi find that there could be more information about how the PBL-system works, where even Teresa, as a Danish student and having the PBL-method background, expressed the opinion that students could be better informed before involving themselves within the method.


Even though, both of them share the opinion that PBL has a variety of benefits, more knowledge base is needed, in order for them to take full advantage of those benefits and make, according to Georgi “much more smooth and guided transition” for both Danish and international students at Aalborg University.
I definitely agree with Teresa and Georgi, and in the future I think that the new students of Aalborg University should have a better preparation for this unique model, mainly because it has a lot of advantages and for me it trains students for their future professional development.

Written by

Desislava Kavaldzhieva
Master student graduate
Environmental Management and Sustainability Science

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1 John Kuada, professor of International Business and Intercultural Management in the department of Business and Management as Aalborg University, Denmark. Book: “Research Methodology: a project guide for university students”, 2012, p. 19, 20