Actions, attitudes and attributes: developing facilitation skills for problem-based learning

  • Margaret C. K. Wilkie

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Problem-based learning (PBL) is being adopted increasingly as a learning and teaching strategy within the United Kingdom. Although facilitation is recognised as being central to PBL, much of the current literature on facilitation in PBL is conflicting. This study explored the espoused and actual conceptions of PBL adopted by facilitators on a newly-developed pre-registration nursing diploma programme that employed PBL. To explore the lived experience of the PBL curriculum, a constructivist interpretist qualitative research design was adopted. For facilitation in PBL to be effective in promoting independent learning and developing critical thinking, teachers were required to sustain the newly espoused pedagogy and to adapt their actions to match. All participants possessed facilitation skills before the start of the study, however expertise in PBL facilitation took time and practice to acquire as existing skills had to be applied in new ways. Findings identified four broad approaches to facilitation: directive conventionalist, liberating supporter, nurturing socialiser and pragmatic enabler. Over time, most facilitators converged from a directive conventionalist approach towards that of a pragmatic enabler. The transitions were influenced by the need to resolve dissonance between espoused theories and theories-in-use; increased understanding of the dialogic nature of PBL; the use of communicative spaces to share and reflect on experience and an enhanced awareness of student diversity. While the findings relate specifically to PBL facilitation, they also contribute to the understanding of the types of teaching and learning strategies required by the large and increasingly diverse student body.
    Date of Award2002
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsUniversity of Dundee
    SupervisorMaggi Savin-Baden (Supervisor), Donald Pennington (Supervisor) & Sally Glen (Supervisor)


    • problem-based learning
    • nurse education
    • qualitative research
    • teaching methods in higher education

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