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Project Organised Problem Based Learning (POPBL). What is a Problem Based Project? Introduction to course Lecturer: Lars Peter Jensen. Today’s Programme. Presentation of the POPBL course Mm 1: Introduction to the study form. The POPBL course. Purpose:

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project organised problem based learning popbl

Project Organised Problem Based Learning (POPBL)

What is a Problem Based Project?

Introduction to course

Lecturer: Lars Peter Jensen

today s programme
Today’s Programme
  • Presentation of the POPBL course
  • Mm 1: Introduction to the study form
the popbl course
The POPBL course


To facilitate students ability to study in an environment with focus on Team Work and Problem Based Learning


During the course the students will develop:


  • project organized problem based learning


  • group work/conflicts and ways to solve conflicts
  • planning a project and structure the documentation of it
  • intercultural competencies
  • learning styles


  • the project organized learning to actual problem related work in groups
  • presentation of results
  • communication within a group
the popbl course content
The POPBL course content

The contents include among others issues:

  • Problem based learning
  • Planning/controlling project work
  • Group work
  • Conflict handling
  • Communication
  • Presentation
  • Learning
  • Intercultural competencies
  • Experience with project work in small scale (short time)

Duration: 1 ECTS, i.e. 5 mini-modules in the beginning of the semester

the popbl course assesment
The POPBL course assesment
  • Oral examination, max.½ hour for each student.
  • Before the examination you have to prepare a 10 min Power Point Presentation about your experience with project work.
  • You can choose any topic you find relevant, but you have to comment and reflect (What lessons to be learnt?) at least these topics:
topics for presentation
Topics for presentation
  • Cooperation contract (also called code of conduct or team charter)
  • Management of people (who did what? why? )
  • Management of time (how did you plan and control your project?)
  • Learning styles (what are your preferred learning styles? How did you use this knowledge when learning, both alone and in the group?)
  • Intercultural competencies (how did you manage to work with people from other cultures? What will you do if e.g. mixed with Danish students?)
the popbl course assesment1
The POPBL course assesment
  • Each exam start with you giving the prepared presentation and then 10-20 min is left for questioning in all areas of the course, but I will focus on the topics from the presentation.
foundation for the popbl course
Foundation for the POPBL course
  • Theoretical: Theories of learning, organisations and communication
  • Practical: More than 35 years of experience with the ’AAU-model’
information about the course
Information about the course
  • POPBL at SICT Moodle homepage:
    • Handouts
    • Literature
mm 1 introduction to the study form
Mm 1: Introduction to the study form


  • Lecture 1: PBL and the ’Aalborg-model’
  • Group task: Experience with group work
  • Lecture 2: About the project
lecture 1 pbl and the aalborg model
Lecture 1: PBL and the ’Aalborg-model’
  • Introduction to PBL
  • Physical and structural frame work at AAU
  • Educational frame work at AAU
  • The study form at AAU
Please think of one of the things that you are good at, write three words in the post-it describing how you learned it well
teach me and i will forget

Student centered learning

Teach me… and I will forget ?

Tell me and I will forget

Show me and I will remember

Involve me and I will understand

Step back and I will act

Chinese proverb

ELiTE March 2010

carl rogers on teaching at harvard in 1951
Carl Rogers on teaching at Harvard in 1951
  • I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.
  • It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant influence on behavior.

ELiTE March 2010

the magic of self directed learning
The magic of self-directed learning

Learning is the process of acquiring new behavior potential.

It is an efective strategy to make the learner responsible for their own learning.

This explains the succes of methods like project organized learning and Problem-based learning

ELiTE March 2010

diversity of engineering competencies
Diversity of engineering competencies

Scientific knowledge

  • Process competencies
  • Project management
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Organization

Technical competencies

what kinds of engineers are expected for the future

Globalized context

Effective communication

Interdisciplinary knowledge

Designing and conducting experiments

Identity and solve applied science problems

Application of

mathematics and science knowledge

Analytical skills

Lifelong learning

Project management

Team work

Social, environmental, and ethical concerns

Intercultural competencies

What kinds of engineers are expected for the future?

Diverse capabilities

  • National Academy of Engineering, The Engineer of 2020, 2004
  • EUR-ACE (Accreditation of European Engineering Programmes and Graduates,
  • - ABET:

Changing traditional teaching and learning



through project


Student’s own


Key competencies

Scope and

specific aims

Methods andskills

pbl as an example of student centered teaching and learning model

PBL as an example of student-centered teaching and learning model

What is problem-based learning?

A learning method based on the principle of using problems as a starting point for the acquisition and integration of new knowledge.

- H.S. Barrows 1980

where and how are pbl practiced
Where and how are PBL practiced?
  • Pioneers
  • McMaster 1968
  • Maastricht 1972
  • Linköping 1972
  • Roskilde 1972
  • Aalborg 1974
  • Different practices
  • Single courses
  • Problem & project organized
  • Individual project
  • Team work

Intro Module1

Problems – question – wondering within a frame

a project each semester (1. year)

each group has a group room

group size of 6-8 students first year, 2-3 students the last year

each group has at least one supervisor

self selected group and projects within themes and disciplines

group presentation followed by individual examination

PBL Aalborg Model - practice




Assignment 10:15-12:00


-initiated & arranged by students

Doing project

In groups

what is a supervisor
What is a supervisor?
  • A person who through facilitating questions encourages your learning process
  • A person who points out the potentials in your work
  • A person who gives loyal and constructive critic of your work
  • A person who at the project exam is one of the examinors
what is a supervisor not
What is a supervisor NOT?
  • Not a teacher who is responsible for your learning process
  • Not a person who tells you what to do
  • Not a person who decides what should be the content of your project
  • Not a member of your project group
  • Not an inexhaustible resource – therefore: Use your supervisor hours carefully

“supervisor ”

project supervision


the new aalborg model
The New Aalborg Model








One semester



In groups up to 8 persons

Individual assessment

Self-selected groups

Appointed supervisor(s)



Free Study Activities (courses) e.g. 1 ECTS


1 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) = 30 workinghours

the aalborg model the study form
The Aalborg-model – the study form

The key words are:

  • Problems
  • Project
  • Team work

Let’s take the last first!

team work what
Team work – WHAT?
  • 6 - 8 students co-operating on the same project (at later semesters 1 - 3 students per group)
  • They have to carry out the project and document the results
  • An oral group presentation is the starting point for en individual exam based on the documentation, held at the end of the project period. Individual marks are given.
team work why
Team work – WHY?
  • A survey carried out in 1997 showed that 75 % of companies wanted new employees to have good skills in group work.
  • The individual student in the group learns from the others (Peer Learning)
  • Responsibility towards the group makes the individual student work hard
aau students on team work
AAU students on team work
  • ”I think that it becomes easier when you learn technical matters in groups. Normally we use the blackboard to discuss things. … You gain more from the time you have to spend in the university in this kind of education when you work in teams. We are getting energy in this way.”
  • ”Working in groups we get mental support from each other; it is also a responsibility so that we won’t drop out easily.”

(Xiangyun Du 2005)

team work how
Team work – HOW?
  • Students are in charge of forming their own groups
  • Project groups choose their own project

It is important

  • to be aware of different roles in the group and
  • to learn how to use strengths in a constructive way while improving on weaknesses

A Contract of Cooperation (CoC) is a useful tool in making mutual expectations explicit.

multiple learning resources
Multiple learning resources




Report writing

Studying engineering via group projects





Participating communities of practice – active learning, communication, organization, and management







at the end of each day ask yourself
At the end of each day, ask yourself
  • I noticed that I …
  • I was surprised that I …
  • I was displeased that I …
  • I discovered that I …
  • I realized that I…
  • I relearned that I …
  • I learned that I…
  • I am pleased that I …

If you feel confused, don’t worry.

You are not the only one…

You will have more opportunities to figure out…

project what
Project – WHAT?

 A project is characterised by being

  • A unique task which includes
  • Many, complex activities and therefore requests
  • Many project group members with different skills and competencies;
  • The project is goal oriented,
  • Limited in time and resources and has to
  • produce a final result, i.e. the goal.
project why
Project – WHY?
  • A survey carried out in 1997 showed that 75 % of companies wanted new employees to have good skills in project work.
  • Working with realistic projects is motivating for students.
  • It increases student activity and thereby increases the learning.
  • Develops transferable skills, incl. project management, documentation etc.
project how
Project – HOW?
  • The project is supported by project related courses
  • Students have to look for relevant information beyond the PE courses
project how timing of a semester
Project – HOW?Timing of a semester

Weekly time



Project time

the four phase model of a project



too broad



too narrow



The ideal

Student Project

The four phase model of a Project





problems what
Problems - WHAT?
  • The project group unpicks and formulates the problem embedded in the project
  • The problem has to be analyzed within a relevant context before it can be solved
  • The problem determines the choice of methods and theories to be used in the analysis as well as in the solution
problems why
Problems – WHY?
  • ‘Real life’ problems are interdisciplinary and complex
  • Working with ‘real life’ problems meets the learners' interests and enhances motivation
  • It emphasizes development of transferable skills, i.e. analytical, problem solving and information processing skills
aau students on problems
AAU students on problems
  • ”We are engineers – our responsibility is to solve real technological problems.”
  • ”This is the first time we found a real problem ourselves rather than getting something from supervisors. It is really exciting. It fits my way of learning. I learn better when I find the way myself. This way of learning is much better than only attending lectures, because I have to know why I need to learn this. When I know the objective clearly, I learn much better.”
  • ”When working on a problem, I am strongly motivated and attracted. We need to solve this problem.”

Xiangyun Du, 2005

problems how
Problems - HOW?

 You are working problem oriented when you

  • Ask questions
  • Point out contradictions
  • Scrutinize sources of information
  • Wonder upon given information
  • Observe the lack of information
  • Problematise the obvious
group exercise
Group exercise

What are the most important things to make group work function well in the process of managing the project work?

  • Please write down your opinions in the post-it – one point on each post-it
  • Share within your group
  • Categorize and organize them into 5 levels by priority in the poster
  • A poster presentation
about the project
About the project
  • Problem analysis
  • Documentation
problem analysis what
Problem analysis – WHAT?
  • Looking at the problem from different perspectives/angles
  • Dividing into different aspects/elements
  • Examining all the aspects/elements one by one
problem analysis why
Problem analysis - WHY?

Me My wife


What to do to get to my wife?

problem analysis how
Problem analysis – HOW?

1) Post It brain storm

  • 1) All group members write key words on PostIt stickers and place the stickers on the board.
  • 2) All group members read the stickers and participate in (re-)structuring them into a relevant structure
  • 3) All group members participate in assessing and choosing project activities, based on the structure
problem analysis how1
Problem analysis – HOW?

2) The 6 W model









3 types of project documentation:

  • Working papers
  • Project diary
  • Project report

The project report have to be handed in by the end of the project period

working papers what
Working papers – WHAT?

All types of written documentation, whether on paper or as an electronic file, which is related to

  • the project task,
  • the project management
  • the group work
working papers why
Working papers – WHY?
  • To capture, coordinate and distribute the information collected and/or created by individual members of the group, to the other group members as well as to the supervisor
working papers how
Working papers – HOW?

If written text the working papers should contain the following four parts:

  • Header for identification
  • Introduction (What? Why?)
  • The main text
  • Summary (What did we learn?)
working papers how1
Working papers – HOW?
  • If diagrams, drawings etc. the working papers should as a minimum contain:
  • Header for identification
  • Explanatory text
working papers how2
Working papers – HOW?

In the Contract of Cooperation you could include points on production of working papers:

  • How to distribute the work tasks
  • How many persons write in a sub-group
  • How to give response to working papers
  • How and when to get response from the supervisor
  • A diary documents the most important activities and decisions in the group
  • The group has to decide upon a suitable format for and content of the diary
assignment group discussion
Assignment: Group discussion

Discussion within your project group:

  • What are your goals and expectations to our project?
  • What can you contribute to the project?
  • Make a co-operation contract for your group