n South African Journal of Higher Education - Applying a partial problem-based learning environment to a non-major economics course : a case of cognitive dissonance

Volume 23, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Problem-based learning (PBL) is a pedagogical approach that has been widely applied across various institutions and disciplines around the world. There have been several adaptations of the broad principles of PBL across these various contexts and while several research studies report different kinds of gains that this approach has for students, there is still some contestation about the real effect of PBL. This article reports on a study that set out to explore pre-service teachers' experiences of a partial PBL model that was applied to a non-major foundational economics course in a university teacher education programme. It argues that cognitive dissonance occurs at different levels. This manifests when pre-service teachers are able to identify and acknowledge the benefits that can be gained from PBL, but detract from fully engaging in the PBL format because of various other contextual factors that influence their abilities to participate. The article argues further that while students appreciate the social and collaborative dimension that a PBL format has to offer, students in this cohort indicate a reluctance to engage in self-directed learning. Data construction in this exploratory case study was guided by the principles symbolic interactionism.

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