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Problem-Based Learning

in the Educational System of Bolu (Turkey)

Necmettin SARI
İzzet Baysal Anatolian High School, Biology Teacher and Doctoral Student,

Nahide YAMAN
Project Coordinator and Expert Teacher

Project Researcher and Science Teacher

EUCLIDES – Enhancing the Use of Cooperative Learning to Increase Development of Science studies
Grant Agreement 2007-3434/001-001
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use
which may be made of the information contained therein.
This report includes the findings of the research on problem-based solving in the general
Educational System of Turkey but especially Bolu. The research was conducted for applied
educational system of primary, secondary and higher education and was carried out
1. Literature review from the internet, hard-copy from the library of university and
various educators
2. Determine the innovations of the educational curriculum of primary and secondary
school that commited by Ministry of Education of Turkey
3. Ascertain cooperative (innovative) learning models which applied in the educational
system of Turkey
4. Run a seminary (briefing) to pool main features of Euclides (aims, details etc.) with
selected teachers and director of selected schools
5. Interviews with selected teachers of primary (science and mathmatic) and
secondary (science) education of state in Bolu
6. Interviews with selected professors and/or Assoc. Prof. of the various disciplines of
the Abant İzzet Baysal University and record the aforementioned interviews
7. Equip the questionnaire which developed by the project co-ordinator to bring
apparent for target audience by us and sent to the selected schools on behalf of
selected teachers.

Problem Based Learning in the Educational System of Turkey
Turkey has been trying to regularly change the methods that used in the educational
curriculum of schools at all levels. In recent years, the curriculum of many lessons have
been renewed provided that attending the radical changes in the view points of the scientific
studies about the learning and teaching. In this context, the classical learning and teaching
methods have been tried to change with constructivist approach by Ministry of Education of
Turkey. For instance, the ministry pursued to a certain pedagogical policy at primary level of
education (especially 4-8. classes) to restored curricurum of Science and Technology lesson
in 2004. Thereby, it is aimed to use constructivist approach in learning methods instead of
traditional techniques.
Although problem based learning is not mentioned with its private name in the
curriculum of programmes which restored in 2004, the programmes focus on students
rather than teachers and denote that “the process” is be important at least “the product” in
learning and teaching which connote the problem based learning. Project Based Learning
(PjBL) and Case Based Learning (CBL) methods which are belonging to cooperative learning
are obviously mentioned in the new programme contrary to the Problem Based Learning

Problem Based Learning in the Educational System of Bolu
The research to state the situation of problem-based learning in the educational
curriculum of Bolu showed that especially the young teachers are used this method
unconsciously and in a non-formal way. It is mainly used by the teachers of secondary
schools and professor of university but it is usually done in a non-formal way on the
discretion of them. The findings that educed from the literature review are given below:
1. 4 articles and one study to assume the status of a book were found on the use of
problem-based solving in teaching and learning at just primary level of the
Educational System of Turkey from the literature review. These studies were
about the Science Education at Primary Schools in light of fresh approachs. They
offer to use new constructivist approach in science learning.

2. The literature review showed that use of the problem based learning was deficient
at high education as well. A few Medical Faculties are partially used this method in

The stated adventages and disadventages from the interviews and questionnaires
are summarized below:
1. Use of the problem based learning raise the interest of students to the daily
problems, change the view point of them to the life, nature etc.

2. Use of the problem based learning cause to evolve the ability of comment,
interrogation of the students.

3. Self-confidence and communication ingenuity of the students who is member of
implementing groups evolve through the method Problem Based Learning.

4. A crutial conseptual knowledge occur to the lesson and solving problem in process
of daily life

5. The students can have a through grasp of the problems and confront better with
1. Problem-based learning is mainly used by young teacher. Consequently, there
are a few implementing teachers at each school.

2. Some implementing teachers are grouser from the incuriosity of the students

3. Same teachers are also grouser from the lack of materials and limited resources
for research

4. Some teachers imply that the classes are densely crowded and it is a big
problem in terms of both time and performance

5. Some problem and commotion can occur among group members

6. It is possible to lose the authority in the crowded classes.

7. Professors request interim reports from the group members to obviate the
authority loss and control the process. So it cause a disadventage for the
purposes of time.

Conclusions and Suggestions

Problem Based Learning has not been plied in formal way into the Educational System of
both Bolu and Turkey, even though it is used almost at all levels of Education mainly by science
teachers. The Ministry of Education already adverts it in the new programme and actually
suggests to be applied by teachers on all levels. Although it is used by teachers who teach
science lessons such as biology, chemistry and physics on the contrary the teachers of social
sciences (geograpy, history, literature), the useing of it by them is not systematically and
The teachers/proffesors from all disciplines must be trained on problem-based learning by
ministry. For instance, annually courses can be given to all teachers of both state and private
schools to use this model on exact and social sciences. The ministry has been already ordering
the courses on the job training, so cooperative teaching methods such especially as Problem
Based Learning can be included.

Mehmet Barış HORZUM, Ayfer ALPER

In this research; single and common effects of teaching methods (learner centered
case based learning and traditional teaching method), cognitive style (field dependent/
independent) and gender have been tried to determine in Science course. 70 students in a
primary school in Sakarya have been included to the research. The cognitive style of these
students has been determined and then traditional teaching method has been applied to 35
of them, case based learning method has been applied to the rest of the students for 3
weeks. In the 4th week, an achievement test has been applied about the subject. At the
end of this test; it is determined that the instructional methods and cognitive styles which
are dependent variances have a meaningful effect, but the effect of gender hasn’t been
meaningful statistically. When common effects are examined, it is determined that the
common effects of the independent variances, which are teaching methods and cognitive
style and also uniquely effective, have been in a meaningful level; but other common effects
haven’t been in a meaningful level statistically.

Key Words
Science Teaching, Constructivism, Case Based Learning, Cognitive Style

Nowadays, besides usage of technology, the student centered learning has gained
importance in teaching environments. Many educators defending the students’ construction
their own learning by giving meaning to the new situations they’ve met according to their
previous experience and prior knowledge have risen too much. The student becomes an
active participator on every subject related to his learning from the construction of learning
environment till the realization of learning.
The constructivism, which is an alternative to the objectivist approach in education
for years, has established a new paradigm. The construction of knowledge by the student
has taken place in the base of constructivism. The main difference between objectivism and
constructivism is that; the first one adopts the world as it is and the second one encourages
the people to this by waiting for a discussion (Cunningham, 1993)
The main aim in our educational system in this information age must be to help the
students gain the skills of reaching knowledge rather than giving them the existing
knowledge. This can be with higher order thinking skills. In other words, it requires to learn
understanding and problem solving skills related to the new situations rather than
memorizing. Science courses are one of the main lessons in which these skills are gained
(Korkmaz and Kaptan, 2001). National Research Council also mentions that Science
education needs more than studying the known rules and theories and also it has to be
studied different from Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology and History courses (National
Research Council, 1996)
The constructivist approach constitutes a strong model for the discussion of
conceptual changes according to the students’ development in Science teaching and
learning. Koegh and Naylor (1997) point out that the program materials especially in
Science education have been prepared by considering these approaches and principles (Act:
Kaptan and Korkmaz, 2000). Various approaches like problem based learning, situation
based learning, Project based learning and etc can be applied for constructivist Science
Education. It is an acceptable reality that the separation of these approaches with a strict
line is very hard. Because at the base of these approaches there is a learning by
determining various learning subjects in classroom environment according to the real life
problems and finding solutions to that problems.
Case Based Learning (CBL) approach has been realized by Howard Barrows playing
the role of a blind patient in 1960 (Barrows, 1963). The usage of the events is as old as
narrating a story. Individually, it is an instruction by the way of decision with face to face or
usage of story about confusion. It encourages students with characters and conditions;
helps the students to understand the decision, contexts, values and events and forms a
connection between the meaning of real life and the events (YÖK, 2003).
CBL helps the student to gain the necessary knowledge in a systematic way and
develop his skills. The graduated student after having an education with cases can apply the
necessary knowledge in his daily life and interpret the events easily (Thomas and others,
One of the most common CBL models is the written example case which can be
applied in seminars or courses. The written cases can be either short sketches explaining
the theoretical dimension or long and confusing cases including one chapter or unit. The
cases help the student to develop his thinking skill and complete the theoretical dimension
by supporting the questions; so the students can learn in analysis and synthesis levels. In
the other one; the sample case is applied by the dramatization the case by one or two
people. Especially in health education, the students take place as the role of a patient in
such practices. The third one is applied by giving a sample case in web environments
(Thomas and others, 2001). This practice has various advantages. The teacher designs the
cases according to the learning objects and contents; so the subjects especially mentioned
are taken into control and by this way the confusions on the subject are deleted.
Thomas and others (2001) has collected CBL’s support to students in 4 groups. CBL
makes the student to organize the knowledge that he can use in his daily life; makes the
student give his decision about his job and develops the self-confidence of the student. In
addition to the mentioned positive properties; both the student and the teacher confronts
with various difficulties in the application process of CBL model. There are some difficulties
in reserving time and credit to instructional program for CBL model about the content,
examining the small group courses’ work and give training to the teacher on the practice
and evaluation of CBL model. Adaptation to the new teaching model and learning by
themselves, competency of background and experiences at first in the field in the solution of
the cases and the construction of confused cases are the difficulties that the students are
faced with (Kidd and others, 2003).
The teachers should take into account how he can teach to the students because he
must accept that every student can’t learn in the same way during learning activities. It
means that if the teacher chooses one method of instruction (direct teaching, cooperative
learning, questionnative learning, etc.) the students can’t raise their learning potentials to
the highest level (Brooks and Brooks, 1993). Also the evaluation of the students should be
thought in addition to the instructional method. Drummond and Mainture (1996) mentioned
the students’ individual properties should be taken into account while determining the
students’ achievement. Witkin (1973); mentioned that the teacher’s cognitive style effects
the instructional method and also the student’s cognitive style effects his learning method;
so the cognitive style is important in student-teacher relationship. One of the most known
classifications on learning style is field dependent/independent cognitive style. This
classification has been researched by Asch and Witkins (1948) in laboratory conditions. It is
found that if other environment is effective on perceivement and performance it is field
dependent, but if there is perception and performance is independent stimulus in the
environment it is called independent learning. Field dependent individuals are centered upon
the whole in perfection and they first see the general picture. Field independents think
analytically. They think of pieces rather than the whole (Şimşek, 2004).
Nowadays, in the application of teaching environments effect of learner centered with
the constructivist learning approaches rather than traditional methods on the student’s
learning and performance and also the individual differences on learning are talked about.
This research presents an importance because it compares the traditional method with the
CBL which is constructivist and learner centered method. It explains the student success in
field dependent/independent groups which are individual differences. It is also important to
present an importance whether the gender is a meaningful effect in success.
In this direction; the main aim of this research is to test the main and common
effects of CBL which is learner centered learning approach, the practice made in traditional
learning environment, field dependent/independent which is one of the individual differences
and gender factors. According to this aim, a test has been applied to the students in 7 A, B,
C of Fatma Hanım Primary School in Science courses in order to measure the field
dependent/independent individual differences. There were 70 students; 29 of them were
determined as field dependent, 41 of them were determined as field independent. CBL has
been applied to 15 of the field dependents and 20 of the field independents. Traditional
teaching method has been applied to 14 of the field dependents and 21 of the field
independents. At the end of these, achievement tests have been applied to the students.

The Model of the Research
There are 3 independent variances whose effects have been examined on the
dependent variance in the research. The dependent variance of the research is the success
of the student in Science course; the independent variances are the used teaching methods,
individual differences and gender. There are CBL and traditional method in independent
variance, field dependent/independent as an individual differences and man and woman in
gender. In this study; unrelated measurements have been taken by measuring every tester
once in experimental situation. When all of these are taken into account, the model of the
research is an inter-group 2x2x2 factorial motive.

The sample of the research
The sample of the research is formed of 70 students in 7 A, B, C of Fatma Hanım
Primary School in Sakarya in 2003-2004 semesters. When this sample is taken into account,
this research’s whole number is 300 students at Fatma Hanım Primary School in Sakarya.

Gathering the data
In order to determine the students’ individual differences; Witkins (1948) field
dependent/independent individual difference test has been applied in this research.
According to the results of this test; the students have been appointed to the group that
two different teaching methods will be applied. In the group in which CBL will be applied; a
real case has been formed according to this method and the courses of the students. After
the case has been formed, this method has been applied in the observation and guidance of
teachers and researchers. In the traditional teaching method; the teacher explained to the
students according to the method. After the practice of these two groups, a developed
achievement test has been applied to the students and their test scores has been taken as
their achievement scores.

Results and Discussion
At the end of the research, it has been found that the gender isn’t meaningful to the
effect of students’ achievement. Also it has been found that the common effect of gender
and method, gender and individual differences isn’t meaningful. The gender, practical
method and cognitive style as individual difference aren’t also meaningful in the common
effect of achievement in Science course. Çakır (2002) has observed that gender doesn’t
have an important effect on the attitude, performance skills, and high order thinking skills
and academic knowledge to the Biology course in his research. The gender is not affecting
the achievement.
But in the research in Science courses, it has been determined that the instructional
method and cognitive style as an individual difference have been meaningful for the
achievement. In the same way it is found that the meaningful effect of the instructional
method in Science course is because of the CBL method. Likewise, Peplow (1996), who
compared student achievement in CBL, has studied certain subjects in Anatomy course with
the direction of the teacher by the system of video conference. He repeated the same cases
in 1993 and 1994 and compared with the traditional method. Generally, he mentioned that
the students’ attitude toward CBL is positive and they wanted to have the other subjects of
Anatomy course with the cases. Although there wasn’t a meaningful difference in student
achievement in traditional method in 1993, he mentioned that the practice in 1994 was
more successful. He explained its reason as “take-home questions” given to the students in
CBL practice in 1994.
Cornely (1998) mentions that studying with cases develops the students’ higher
order thinking skills. Arelano (2001) also tells that CBL approach gives opportunity to the
students to be inquiry in the researches. In addition to this; Gabel’s (1999) points out that,
studying with cases provides thinking in analysis, synthesis and evaluation level (Çakır,
2002). Likewise Çakır (2002), in this study has found that CBL has supported the students’
performance and academic knowledge, so in this study it is observed that CBL approach
affected the student achievement in an important degree.
Another research related to the student achievement has been done by Hay and
Katsikitis (2001). Knowledge gainment, the teacher’s evaluation of the student and the
student’s evaluation of the teacher have been compared in the research which is about the
effect of experts and non experts on CBL and PBL teachers on student achievement.
According to the findings; the expert teachers’ students have gained more knowledge than
the ones which are non experts in two of the approaches. In the student evaluation of the
non experts; it is mentioned that the students use the oral communication more than the
other group.
In the evaluation of the teacher by the student the group management skill of non expert
teachers has been determined better than the other group. These two positive findings give
the result that group communication is better when it is better managed and so the
activities are more positive.
In one of the research findings, field dependent students are more successful than
the field independent ones in Science courses. Çakır (2002) has observed that the learning
styles don’t have an important effect on the students’ attitudes toward the Biology course,
performance skills, high level skills and academic knowledge. Again Alper (2003) has found
that, cognitive flexibility isn’t effective on student achievement as an individual difference.
In another research, Drummond and McIntire (1996) have compared field
dependent/independent university students in traditional and modular instruction. He
mentioned that the field dependent students preferred traditional approaches and wanted to
study in traditional classroom environment. But field dependent students told that they’ve
been successful in modular education. In another study; it is found that the achievement of
the students having distant education and face to face education are equal (Aragon and
others, 2000).
According to the research findings; in Science instruction, giving importance to the
individual differences and taking learner centered constructivist approach model into
account will increase the student achievement, so his decision skill in future by developing
self confidence will be very much.