This paper reports on a study that investigated the effectiveness of the use of problem-based learning (PBL) on students’ performance in Woodwork at a Malawian college. PBL models are constructivist in nature, hence they promote cognitive development and active learning which in turn enhances performance. Therefore, the study compared the performance of students’ learning of woodwork through PBL and those learning through the traditional methods. A pre-test – post-test control group experimental design was adopted and involved an intervention, the PBL approach, implemented on the experimental group whilst the control group learnt through the traditional approach. A class of 62 students participated in the study. The class was divided into two groups, with each group comprising 31 students to form the experimental and control group. Data for the study was collected using achievement tests and questionnaires. An independent samples t-test showed that there was no significant difference in the pre-test mean scores between the experimental group (problem-based approach) and the control group (traditional approach), before an intervention was implemented. The post-test results revealed a significant difference in the performance of the students from the two groups. The study found PBL to be an effective approach, and it is recommended for the teaching of woodwork and other technology courses.
Key words: Problem-based learning, traditional approach, woodwork, technology studies, constructivism, technical teacher training.
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