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Problem-based learning in organizations: A study of self-directed learning instructional technology, and teamwork

, Georgia State University, United States

Georgia State University . Awarded


Statement of the problem. The purpose of the study was to examine the process of implementing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in an organizational context. PBL is an instructional strategy that originated in a medical school context with the following tenets: knowledge acquisition and recall, problem-solving, self-directed learning and collaborative learning.

Method. Qualitative methods were utilized to form case studies of five PBL groups in a telecommunications organization environment with hardware and software engineers. Data sources included the discourse obtained from video tapes of the five PBL sessions as well as structured interviews with one participant from each of the five cases. The discourse was also profiled according to team work dimensions: identification, interdependence, power differentiation, social distance, conflict management tactics and negotiation process. The degree of team learning in the organization was measured by The Team Learning Survey developed by Dechant and Marsick (1993). The study included typological (content categories) and topological (interpersonal) levels of analysis.

Results. Analysis of the data included coding of units of data from PBL discourse and interview data. As categories were compared and contrasted, themes emerged from these categories: session reaction codes, enhancements needed for PBL in an organization, views on self-directed learning, the teacher/facilitator role, team learning and PBL and organizational learning.

Analysis of interpersonal aspects of learning was based on a discourse rating scale developed by Donnellon (1996) using five teamwork dimensions resulting in a teamwork effectiveness description of each PBL group. The scores from The Team Learning Survey indicated that the organization supported team learning, but that the knowledge resulting from this team learning was pooled in the organization, short of being integrated and synergistic.

Conclusions. The findings from this study have suggested the medical model of PBL should be enhanced to include more continuous sessions as opposed to shorter weekly sessions. Modification and support were also suggested for the self-directed learning component. The interpersonal dimension in PBL was not necessarily an outcome of the PBL process, but was a factor that needs to be addressed during the PBL process.

PBL is an instructional strategy that is based on a constructivist philosophical position. The study pointed to the need for further research comparing PBL to non-constructivist strategies. Evaluative studies are also needed examining the effectiveness of different PBL approaches.


Maxwell, R.C. Problem-based learning in organizations: A study of self-directed learning instructional technology, and teamwork. Ph.D. thesis, Georgia State University. Retrieved April 21, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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