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Group Dynamics in Problem-Based Learning (PBL): A Case Study of Architectural Students in a Hong Kong University

By Joseph Francis Wong


This thesis investigates the individual and group behaviour of students in Hong Kong who are experiencing a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) curriculum for the first time.\ud The research examines how they cope with problems arising from small group collaborative learning and factors influencing their group dynamics in a PBL setting. The central research question is, “How does a group of university students in a Hong Kong cope with the group dynamics, both inside and outside the classroom, when experiencing a PBL situation in their programme?” Following an interpretivist paradigm, this study aims to develop a substantive theory of the interaction among university students in a PBL tutorial environment and associated phenomena. This research has employed the qualitative approach of grounded theory research methods to collect and analyse data from twelve first year students studying in the Associate of Science in Architectural Studies programme at the City University of Hong Kong. Data collected from semi-structured interviews, non-participant video-taped observations, and documents were triangulated to enhance the rigour of the study. The Theory of Adaptive Formation that has emerged from this study explains the interactive processes that determine student behaviour and group dynamics in the PBL small group collaborative learning setting and describes the phenomenon of constant formation and re-formation adopted by the students and tutorial groups to adapt to different situations arising from the PBL process under the influence of four key factors: Group members, Problem brief, Tutor influence and Group collaboration. The theory also explains the relationship between the four student types –Drivers, Adventurers, Workers and Riders – and the key factors. Although the emergent theory remains predominantly substantive in nature, this study illuminates important implications for the stakeholders as well as highlights critical recommendations for practitioners and researchers of PBL

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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