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A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Impact of a Problem-Based Learning Approach to the Teaching of Software Development in Higher Education

DOODY, JAMES (2009) A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Impact of a Problem-Based Learning Approach to the Teaching of Software Development in Higher Education. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



First year students on Computing courses at tertiary level find Software Development difficult: learner outcomes are poor, with high failure rates and low learner retention. A number of research studies have shown that novice programmers have low intrinsic motivation and low programming self-efficacy. One of the other possible explanations for the difficulties many learners have with Software Development is that it may be a Threshold Concept in Computing. The literature suggests that Problem-Based Learning (PBL) can improve the teaching of difficult concepts, and it has been promoted by professional and funding bodies as a teaching strategy that can improve learner outcomes and bring about positive changes in learner behaviour. The main aim of this research study was to establish the impact on learner outcomes and behaviour of a Hybrid PBL approach used in the teaching of an introductory Software Development module at an Irish tertiary level institution. Learners on the Software Development module are characterised by low prior attainment in State college entry examinations, and the majority are from low income socio-economic backgrounds. Learner outcomes and behaviours were investigated over four cohorts of learners using a large range of data sources. A randomised controlled experimental design was used to measure changes in attainment, programming self-efficacy, motivation, approaches to study and preferences for types of teaching. Questionnaires, data mining of learner activity and attendance logs were used to provide additional information about learner behaviour, and further analysis was undertaken using qualitative techniques such as classroom observations and interviews. Both qualitative and quantitative measures were used to confirm, cross-validate and corroborate findings. The study made significant discoveries about the strengths and limitations of the Problem-Based Learning approach in the teaching of Software Development to low attainment learners. The implications for instructional practice and for educational theory and research are discussed and a number of recommendations are made.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Education
Keywords:Problem-Based Learning, Software Development, Computer Programming, Curriculum, Attainment, Programming Self-Efficacy, Motivation, Approaches to Studying, Teaching, Learning.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:21 Dec 2009 13:25

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