About Problem-Based Learning
in Computer Science Foundation Units
University of Sydney

We have put a huge amount of effort into designing these courses, as one does for foundation courses! We have also learnt a great deal, much of it the hard way - through experience. Our team has been repeatedly impressed and even surprised at how well PBL works. At the same time, it requires quite a shift in teaching approach. In the early period, we found ourselves slipping into the old modes of teaching. This collection of documents might help others get a faster start.

Papers

tr_cse_pbl99.pdf
cse_pbl99.pdf


Student handbooks

2000_student_resource.ps
2000_student_resource.pdf


Tutor resources

1_class.ps
2_class.ps
3_class.ps
4_class.ps
5_class.ps
6_class.ps
7_class.ps
8_class.ps
9_class.ps
10_class.ps
11_class.ps
11a_class.ps
12_class.ps
13_class.ps

1_class.pdf
2_class.pdf
3_class.pdf
4_class.pdf
5_class.pdf
6_class.pdf
7_class.pdf
8_class.pdf
9_class.pdf
10_class.pdf
11_class.pdf
11a_class.pdf
12_class.pdf
13_class.pdf


Practicalities

report_dept.html


Talks

Teaching Excellence
group talk, June 2000



The resources here are intended to help other people build from our experience. The documents you can find here are all available as http://www.cs.usyd.edu.au/~judy/PBL/document-name

  • a 1999 Technical report which summarises much of our experiences over the years of the 1996 trial, available as postscript and pdf.
      tr_cse_pbl99.pdf
  • and for the submitted and longish versions of the journal paper which appeared in Computer Science Education 10(2), 2000, pp1-20.
      cse_pbl99.pdf

  • We produce a resource book for students for each semester of the course. I have written the semester 1 book from 1998--2000. It is largely independent of programming language (which is just as well because we are about to move from teaching an elegant, clean beginner's object-oriented language with an excellent environment, extremely clean object model, simple syntax, some support for correctness to Java). You might be interested in 1999 and 2000 versions -- even after a trial and three years experience, you will see some important changes in the assessment criteria and overall assessment as well as several of the detailed teaching resources. (We are still learning.)
    • 99_student_resource.pdf
    • 99_student_resource.ps
    • 2000_student_resource.pdf (216599 bytes)
    • 2000_student_resource.ps (345499 bytes)

  • Even reading the above, you will have trouble working out what happens in the classroom. The following collection of documents should help with that. It is the scripts that I have written for each week of semester 1's course. When reading them, note that of the 30 or so tutors in the course, over 20 are honours (4th year) students, most of whom have never taught before. Their feedback indicates that these notes are really helpful to them. I revise them each week as the course runs, so that I can adapt to what is actually happening in the class. The ones above the blank line are 2000 versions - those below are 1999 versions.
    • 1_class_ps
    • 2_class_ps
    • 3_class_ps (and an additional page - 3_task_page.cgi)
    • 4_class_ps
    • 5_class_ps
    • 6_class_ps
    • 7_class_ps
    • 8_class_ps
    • 9_class_ps
    • 10_class_ps
    • 11_class_ps
    • 11a_class_ps
    • 12_class_ps
    • 13_class_ps
    • 13_sem_ps

  • In case you think that the average academic department will leap at radical change to PBL, the following report should give you just a hint of what was needed to make the move. It is a report to the Computer Science Department Teaching Committee. That committee set 10 questions which were to be answered before the decision would be made to move to PBL. Many come from the results of the first semester of the 1996 trial. That trial was an invaluable foundation for the move. It gave some hard data to point out that students learn as much of the old technical and theory skills as in a conventional style class - this in a situation where the main instrument of comparison was an exam written by lecturers of the conventional-style course. It also gave data that students gained many other skills and had a much more positive view of their learning experiences and their own problem solving ability (although these affective aspects are not in this report as they were not ready in time - they are summarised in the Tech Report above.)
    • report_dept.html

  • The whole of this directory is available as a gzipped tar file in pbl.tar.gz pbl.tar.gz
(The team is Alan Fekete, Tony Greening, Judy Kay, Jeff Kingston, all from Computer Science and Kate Crawford from Education was involved in the 1996 trial.)