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PHOTON PBL: Problem-Based Learning in Photonics Technology Education

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Abstract

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach whereby students learn course content by actively and collaboratively solving real-world problems presented in a context similar to that in which the learning is to be applied. Research shows that PBL improves student learning and retention, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and the ability to skillfully apply knowledge to new situations – skills deemed critical to lifelong learning. Used extensively in medical education since the 1970’s, and widely adopted in other fields including business, law, and education, PBL is emerging as an alternative to traditional lecture-based courses in engineering and technology education. In today’s ever-changing global economy where photonics technicians are required to work productively in teams to solve complex problems across disciplines as well as cultures, PBL represents an exciting alternative to traditional lecture-based photonics education. In this paper we present the PHOTON PBL project, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education (NSF-ATE) project aimed at creating, in partnership with the photonics industry and university research labs from across the US, a comprehensive series of multimedia-based PBL instructional resource materials and offering faculty professional development in the use of PBL in photonics technology education. Quantitative and qualitative research will be conducted on the effectiveness of PBL in photonics technician education.

© 2007 Optical Society of America

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