Problem-based learning : a catalyst for enabling and disabling disjunction prompting transitions in learner stances
This study demonstrates that while problem-based learning (PBL) may promote many of the abilities currently high on the agenda in British higher education in the 1990s, the wider implications of the implementation of PBL are more complex and far reaching. This multi site study was qualitative and post-positivist in its design and process. The focus was to: examine the expectations and experiences of staff and students in different professional and educational environments who are involved in using PBL in some way. What emerged was a new model for understanding the nature of learner experience on PBL programmes, charactensed by significant diversity between espoused aims and values, what happened in practice and in relationships between staff and students. Disjunction is a concept seen by many as a starting point for learning. (Jarvis, 1987; Weil, 1989). Students are often offered through PBL the opportunity to own their learning experiences and develop independence in inquiry. It is these very opportunities which seemed to prompt different forms of disjunction. This research extends earlier work around the concept of disjunction in learning, and the notion of enabling and disabling forms in relation to three different understandings of "learner stance". These three stances present a multifaceted view of learner experience. The emergent model suggests ways in which students are prompted to reflect upon and reconstruct their learner identity. This in turn may result in transitions within their personal, pedagogical and interactional stances as learners within particular environments. The study concludes by suggesting that the notion of learner stances and transitions which occur in relation to them, offer a framework for broadening current understandings of learner experience on diverse PBL programmes, whilst arguing that PBL may prompt new forms of transformation in relation to students' past, present and future constructions of learning and of themselves as learners.