Learning from the University of Aalborg PBL Model


Feb 8, 2019

On January 25 and 26, scholars from the University of Aalborg in Denmark conducted a workshop on problem-based learning (PBL). Known as the University of Aalborg PBL Model, the university’s approach has garnered attention from around the world and has been certified as an excellent teaching method by UNESCO Chairs, a program aimed at enhancing the capacities of higher education and research institutions. The workshop was conducted by two members of the University of Aalborg’s Department for Culture and Global Studies: Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies Dr. Kirsten Jæger and Associate Professor of Intellectual and Cultural History Dr. Ben Dorfman.

On the first day, a diverse group of 20 faculty and staff from Kyushu University, Okayama University, the University of Tsukuba, Toyohashi University of Technology, and Ritsumeikan University joined the event alongside their APU counterparts. Education Development and Learning Support Center (EDLSC) Director Tatsuya Hirai opened the session by saying “advances are being made in PBL and other types of multicultural cooperative learning throughout the world,” and he stressed the importance that APU places on PBL.

In the morning session, Dr. Jæger gave a lecture on the theories underlying PBL in which she talked about the social situation that led to the development of PBL and how the University of Aalborg came to adopt PBL on a university-wide basis. She discussed how students at the University of Aalborg have to write a group report every semester on a problem of their own choosing, a point that many of the participants seemed especially interested in. In the afternoon session, Dr. Dorfman used the University of Aalborg curriculum as an example to facilitate a discussion on the practical application of PBL. Participants asked questions about the roles and burden that faculty assume when using PBL, how students are graded, and whether first-year students have sufficient problem-solving skills. After a vigorous discussion ensued, the first day's activities came to a close.

On the second day, the two guests held a discussion with EDLSC faculty about the use of PBL at APU. Topics included whether the Multicultural Cooperative Workshop for all first-year students could incorporate more PBL elements and how the EDLSC can cooperate with APU faculty and classes. Given the importance of having a faculty supervisor in place who can provide guidance on projects, the group talked about possible programs that APU could use to support its faculty in implementing PBL. The second day ended with a discussion about practical planning with an eye on adopting PBL at APU in the not too distant future.

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