Background: While improved student engagement has been highlighted as an essential goal and a major outcome of Problem and Project-Based learning (PBL), little empirical evidence has been provided regarding types and forms of student engagement.
Material and method: The study explored forms of student engagement in PBL settings, drawing on empirical data of observations and group interviews with 23 project teams (116 students) in four different PBL undergraduate civil engineering courses at Qatar University.
Results: The study identified four patterns of student engagement in a PBL setting. Participants reported significant indicators of the first two patterns - engagement as autonomy and as connection. Regarding the other two indicators, namely relational and emotional engagement, they reported positive yet slightly fewer indicators. Three factors were identified that influenced student engagement in a project teams, namely PBL types and its appropriateness to the nature of the course, students’ prior experiences with PBL, and team dynamics.
Conclusions: These results facilitate the establishment of an institutional framework supporting a progressive approach to embracing PBL. In this framework PBL implementation begins with diverse practices at the course level and has systemic change as its ultimate goal. This framework particularly aims to support an institutionalized approach to transition to PBL in a socio-cultural context (e.g., a non-western context) where instructors are as the primary and authoritative source of knowledge. The overall outcome of the study supports management of change from a lecture-based mode to PBL in a non-western context.