UD instructional techniques highlighted in national publication

The University of Delaware's initiative to incorporate problem-based learning (PBL) techniques into its undergraduate education is featured prominently in the July/August issue of the AAC&U News, a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

AAC&U is the leading national association devoted to advancing and strengthening liberal learning for students, regardless of academic area. Founded in 1915, the association has nearly 800 members, including accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

Featured in a section on AAC&U Member Innovations, the article describes the development of PBL techniques at UD since 1982

Over the years, UD has developed an international reputation in the use of problem-based and active-learning strategies in the classroom. These innovative methods of teaching involve students actively in the educational process by seeking solutions to real world problems, working cooperatively in groups, thinking critically and finding and using learning resources.

The AAC&U article notes that a 1998 report, "A Blueprint for America's Research Universities," criticized many universities but praised UD for adopting PBL in its basic science classes as a "promising approach to improving undergraduate education."

The article asks, "How did a small group of professors manage to institute such sweeping changes in the way students were educated?" The answer from Barbara Duch, co-director of UD's Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education, is: "There needs to be collegial support, administrative structure and support and some institutionalization of the effort."

UD's recogniton for achievement in this field includes receipt of the Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence, major grants from the National Science Foundation, funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts.

Last year, UD created a "Problem-Based Learning Clearinghouse," which is believed to be the first online PBL journal of its type in the nation and possibly the world.

In addition, teams of educators from all over the world have come to UD to learn about PBL. This July, UD hosted an international conference on problem-based learning that drew attendees and presenters from 95 institutions and 18 countries.