The student as facilitator - A qualitative exploration of monitoring strategies used by 'dominant' team members in PBL groups

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Problem-based learning (PBL) is an authentic pedagogy which imitates a real-life working environment and gives students the responsibility for their own learning. It has been adopted by engineering education to help improve students’ performance and engagement while also giving opportunity for them to develop entrepreneurial competencies, e.g problem-solving, teamwork and leadership. These are essential to give graduates the ability to find innovative solutions to the current global challenges facing industry. This paper shows an investigation into ‘how’ problem-solving is developed within PBL tutorials by analysing group interactions and conversations.

The data reported on in this paper are video recordings of undergraduate PBL sessions, collected from a core Chemical Engineering module at a UK university from September 2016 – March 2018. The participants consisted of 25 students who volunteered, and they made up four small tutorial groups (5-7 students). These video recordings have been analysed using qualitative content analysis to initially understand and describe the techniques that students use when problem-solving without the guidance of a tutor.

One of the strategies for problem-solving which these teams exhibited was the use of a structure; by identifying stages in the problem-solving process and having expectations for each stage. This structure was often implemented by the students who happened to be more dominant in the conversation. It appears that these ‘dominant’ students are taking the role of a facilitator, to help prompt discussions and instigate decision-making. This phenomenon will be discussed in more detail in the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication46th SEFI Annual Conference 2018
Place of PublicationBrussels
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2018


  • problem-based learning
  • student-led Learning
  • entrepreneurial competencies
  • problem-solving

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