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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Investigating Problem-based Learning in an Initial Teacher Education Program

Dr John Pearson, Dr Tammy Kwan, Sydney Wong.

The decision to adopt problem-based learning (PBL) in an initial teacher education program at the University of Hong Kong was influenced by three main factors. First, the admission of a special cohort of mature age students (n=13), employed as educational psychologists, who were required by the Education Department of Hong Kong to obtain a professional qualification to teach in schools. Second, a focus on learning to teach Integrated Humanities, one of the recommendations of recent educational reforms in Hong Kong. Third, a concern that conventional teaching strategies were inappropriate in developing educational professionals who were prepared to critically examine proposals for educational reform, and willing to adopt and trial approaches to teaching and learning in schools which were consistent with recommendations in recently released curriculum guidelines.

PBL has been widely adopted in many university programs. Evaluations of PBL in fields such as medicine, dentistry, speech and hearing science, social work and nursing reveal that outcomes have been positive for participants (tutors and learners). However, few evaluations have been published about PBL in the educational and curriculum studies components in initial teacher education programs. Hence, this paper reports on our experiences in designing and implementing PBL in Integrated Humanities, and in evaluating outcomes using an action research framework, in the first semester of a two-year part time postgraduate initial teacher education program.

The outcomes of this trial lead us to be optimistic about the use of PBL as a core teaching pedagogy in the postgraduate initial teacher education program at the University of Hong Kong, and in similar programs which aim to prepare 'new educational professionals' in an era of educational reform. Some potential difficulties - such as resourcing programs of this kind, and the expectations which might be held by some students - are also briefly noted.


Dr John Pearson  (China)
Associate Professor in Education
Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong

John Pearson has extensive experience in initial and continuing teacher education. Before joining The University of Hong Kong in 2000, he was a member of the Faculty of Education at Monash University. His current research interests include policy and evaluation in the field of information and communications technology (ICT) in education.

Dr Tammy Kwan  (China)
Associate Professor in Education
Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong

Tammy Kwan is Associate Professor in geographical education in the Faculty of Education which she first joined in 1983. Between 1992-97, she was a lecturer at the School of Professional Studies, Queensland University of Technology, responsible for social, geographical and environmental education. She has a strong commitment to action research as a means to improve teachers' professional development and personal growth.

Sydney Wong  (China)
Teaching Consultant
Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong

Sydney Wong is a Teacher Consultant in history education in the Faculty of Education. Before joining The University of Hong Kong in 1998, he was a teacher in secondary schools in Hong Kong. Prior to being a teacher, he was education administrator of an UNHCR project in Hong Kong and responsible for educational activities in closed camps for Vietnamese refugees.

  • Initial teacher education
  • Problem-based learning
  • Self-directed learning
  • Curriculum studies
  • Action research

(30 min Conference Paper, English)