Problem-based Learning and Creativity: A Review of the Literature

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Problem-based Learning and Creativity: A Review of the Literature

Oon-Seng Tan, Stefanie Chye, and Chua-Tee Teo
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Problem-based learning (PBL) has been widely touted to be an effective instructional method for the present climate of change and innovation. Supporters vehemently contend that it is an effective means of cultivating creativity. These claims, while promising in theory, seem to lack systematic empirical support. Consequently, it is prudent to scrutinize existing evidence to determine if the increased resources required for PBL are indeed balanced by its educational benefits. This chapter reviews the literature from 2000–2008 in an attempt to determine the efficacy of PBL in fostering creativity. Results of the exploratory review seem to indicate that, although there exists a corpus of studies documenting the positive effects of PBL, their academic rigor and quality are in question. Caution should thus be exercised in proclaiming PBL as a panacea for our education system's deficiencies in nurturing creativity. In conclusion, areas for future research and the steps that need to be taken to advance knowledge in this sphere are considered.

Introduction: Creativity and Education

Creativity is increasingly valued as an essential capability in this age of information. As such, the role of education in fostering creative competencies has received greater emphasis. At the same time, traditional methods of instruction have been criticized for their inadequacies in preparing students for the present climate of change and innovation. The need for flexible thinking, an issue that has pervaded discussions of classroom reform, has sparked interest in the potential of the problem-based learning instructional method for meeting today's educational needs.

Education has tended to be preoccupied with the traditional form of assessment (i.e., examinations), which often creates mental defaults that generally lead to students focusing on seeking a single "best" answer. In shifting the emphasis to problem solving, we take a cognitive approach that focuses on thinking abilities as the basis of creative work. The term creative is used in a broad sense to mean having the capacity to come up with "original, inventive and novel ideas" (Cropley, 1992, p. 6).

Despite its widespread application, the concept of creativity has nevertheless defied a single agreed definition. Creativity is the basis for discovery and innovation. It is considered to be chiefly characterized by two qualities: novelty and usefulness (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996). Definitions have varied depending on whether the researchers define creativity in terms of the creative person, the creative process, the creative product, or the creative environment (Amabile, 1983) and on the researchers' theoretical perspectives (Ng, 2001). However, product definitions are widely regarded as most useful for creativity research, even among those whose research interests lie in other aspects of creativity (Amabile, 1983).

The study of the impact of creative abilities involves understanding creativity in relation to (1) the intrapersonal system and attributes, (2) affective–motivational processes, (3) mediated learning processes, (4) specific cognitive functions related to creativity, (5) creative-thinking and problem-solving tools, and (6) outcomes in the form of real innovations. Interventions in developing creativity assume that deficiencies in creative thinking and skills are attributable to a lack of cognitive intervention and a conducive environment. Creativity is often the result of optimizing various ways of thinking and building on elements of (1) the affective–motivational domain, (2) systematic–strategic thinking, (3) analytical–inferential thinking, and (4) divergent thinking. The affective–motivational domain sets the philosophy and spirit of participation in and commitment to problem-based activities. Systematic and strategic thinking encompasses reflective practice, systematic problem solving, systems thinking, and strategic thinking. Analytical–inferential thinking refers to cognitive functions such as comparison, classification, analytic perception and analysis, logical and inferential thinking, and problem-solving heuristics. Divergent thinking is thinking that radiates or flows outward from an idea or concept, in contrast to convergent thinking, which refers to a collection of information or ideas that focus on a single idea or possibility. Divergent thinking leads to contact with many other ideas, which may include ideas or possibilities that one might not ordinarily consider, and as such it has been argued that it can result in the discovery of remote associations and insights, such as the unusual uses of a common object (Finke, 1995).

There have been many studies on divergent thinking and creativity (e.g., Cropley, 1992; Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; Guilford, 1950, 1956, 1970, 1988; Lubart, 1994; Osborn, 1953; Runco, 1991; Sternberg & Davidson, 1995; Torrance, 1986; Treffinger, 1994). However, Piirto (1992) questions whether divergent thinking abilities alone lead to creativity. The many debatable issues pertaining to conceptions of divergent thinking, creativity, and intelligence are beyond the scope of this chapter. Our purpose here is to highlight those aspects of problem-based learning which support the development of cognitive functions that facilitate creativity.

While abilities such as generating novel and interesting ideas are often described as creative, Torrance (1986) and Sternberg (1996) point out that creativity also involves the analytical aspects of analysis, evaluation, problem solving, and decision making.

How does creativity come about? Lubart (1994) cites the following approaches to the conception of creativity: (1) mystical, (2) psychodynamic, (3) cognitive, (4) social–psychological, and (5) confluence.

The mystical approach subscribes to the notion of a supernatural source of creativity (see, e.g., Ghiselin, 1985). The individual is seen as an empty vessel and creative works as the result of inspiration from a divine or mystical source.

The psychodynamic approach suggests that creativity arises from the tension between conscious reality and unconscious drives. Freud (1959) contends that writers and artists produce creative work as a way to express their unconscious wishes in a publicly acceptable fashion, citing eminent creators such as Leonardo da Vinci to support his theory.

The cognitive approach focuses on thinking abilities and knowledge as the basis of creative work (see, e.g., Guilford, 1950, 1988; Torrance, 1974, 1986). It emphasizes various facets of mental abilities that are linked to creativity. These include divergent thinking, perceptual processes, problem-definition and problem-solving skills, insight skills, induction skills, and the ability to form associations and analogies. More recently, cognitive approaches have also brought in biological bases of creativity, such as the hemispheric roles of the brain.

The social–psychological approach focuses on personality variables, motivational variables, and the sociocultural environment as sources of creativity (see, e.g., Barron, 1968). For example, it is argued that creativity in diverse cultures has been linked to environmental variables such as the availability of role models, availability of resources, and how people judge creativity.

The confluence approach adopts partial synthesis of approaches such as those above and hypothesizes that multiple components must converge for creativity to occur. Thus, Csikszentmihalyi (1988), for example, has taken a "systems" approach that emphasizes the role of the individual (via cognitive processes, personality traits, and motivation), the field (consisting of people who influence a domain and evaluate new ideas), and the domain (the culturally defined symbol system that transmits creative products to others and to future generations). Sternberg and Lubart (1995) also adopt a confluence approach that relates specific aspects of intelligence, knowledge, thinking styles, personality, motivation, and the environment to creativity.

Among these approaches, Lubart (1994) notes that since Guilford's presentation of creativity in 1950 "the cognitive approach has dominated ideas about the source of creativity" (p. 296). Apart from theorizing about what creativity is exactly, researchers have also been interested in articulating the specific components involved. In the componential theory of creativity, Amabile (1983, 1996) proposes that creativity involves three major components that are sets of elements which control, determine, and enter into creative processes. The three components are, specifically, domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant skills, and task motivation, and they are regarded as factors essential to the production of creative responses and works. Although these three main components constitute a complete set of generic factors necessary for creativity, the listing and elaboration of the elements within each component awaits further research.

Problem-based Learning for Nurturing Creativity?

Problem-based learning (PBL) has been advocated as an alternative, more progressive approach to instruction and one that is premised on offering opportunities for exercising creativity and for its development (Barak, 2006; Tan, 2000b). The embrace of this teaching methodology has, however, been met with some trepidation. This is due in part to the major curricular overhaul that accompanies it and to the multitude of resources that are associated with its implementation (Koh et al., 2008). And while it appears to be promising in theory, systematic empirical evidence is still lacking.

Before PBL is advocated as an effective means of cultivating creativity, it would be prudent to scrutinize the evidence and determine if the increased resources required are balanced by the educational benefits. As such, a review of PBL is timely. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the research in the specific area of PBL and creativity in the hope that it would shed light on the efficacy of this instructional method in fostering creative thinking.

Framing the Review

PBL has been widely heralded as a methodology that prepares individuals for an ever-changing and evolving knowledge-based society. Supporters contend that, by shifting the focus from content acquisition to achieving broader educational goals, PBL can help individuals be content experts, problem solvers, team players, and lifelong learners, all of which are desired outcomes of education (see, e.g., Dunlap, 2005b; Tan, 2003). Among the outcomes that PBL can potentially produce is the capability for creative thought, which has recently drawn much attention from educators (Barak, 2006; Kwon et al., 2006; Semerci, 2006; Tan, 2000b).

It is theorized that by having authentic problems rather than content as the focal point, and with students assuming the role of active problem solvers and teachers as facilitators or guides, higher-level thinking skills are likely to be attained (Semerci, 2006; Tan, 2000a). PBL encourages students to look for new solutions to the problems presented using available knowledge and resources. This process is believed to enhance their creative capabilities (Kwon et al., 2006; Ward & Lee, 2002). In facilitation or coaching, teachers do not steer students to a single, "correct" way of thinking; instead, they indicate that there may not be clear-cut right and wrong answers but different degrees of "right" answers (Gallagher & Stepien, 1995). In the process, creative thinking is stimulated.

Despite the strong interest garnered for PBL as a possible means of cultivating creative competencies, and despite its sound theoretical rationale, systematic evidence for a positive relationship between PBL and creativity is scarce. It is dissatisfying to assume on the basis of theorizing alone that establishing good conditions for creative thinking by applying instructional methods such as PBL would necessarily promote creativity.

Therefore, in this review, we will compile the findings of studies that have been conducted to assess the impact of PBL on creativity, in order to construct a more coherent picture of this body of research. In an endeavor to cover the most recent research, we have focused on studies conducted in the period 2000–2008.

The Search Process and Terms

Conducting a literature review of the effectiveness of PBL in cultivating creativity is a process of construction and selection. It is important, therefore, to be reflexive and to make explicit the motives that initiated the review, the selection criteria employed, and the conclusions drawn (Foster & Hammersley, 1998). To ensure consistency and reduce bias, it is advantageous to follow a systematic approach in which a specific protocol is used to guide the review process (Stevens, 2007). In cases where the field is broad and vague or where the available resources are limited, a more flexible approach can be considered, as it will provide room for informed change in the proposed protocol (Badger et al., 2000). Specific but flexible protocols were used to guide and focus the process of this literature review, owing to the small number of studies investigating PBL and creativity specifically but the relatively large literature base focusing on PBL.

The following criteria were established initially to guide the selection of studies for review:

  1. The studies should be empirical and data-based.
  2. They should be published in peer-reviewed journals from 2000 to 2008.
  3. Studies on all educational levels and across all domains would be included to broaden the scope.

Although these criteria guided the review process, there were studies that did not fulfill one of the criteria but were included because they were perceived as important or landmark studies.

Bibliographic databases such as ERIC, Education Research Complete, PsycARTICLES, PsycCRITIQUES, PsycINFO, and ProQuest Education as well as psychology journals were searched for relevant peer-refereed journal articles using specific search queries. The key search terms included "problem-based learning," "creativity," and "creative thinking." A search was also made of major journals on education and psychology as well as other journals in which research on PBL is likely to be published. This process uncovered a particular journal on PBL called the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning. Cross-references to other potentially interesting articles were also followed up on.

The search produced a miniscule number of relevant studies focused specifically on PBL and creativity. As such, the search was broadened to examine PBL and its impact on specific components of creativity, such as knowledge, self-directed learning, self-regulated learning, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and motivation. This unearthed a corpus of about 3,930 articles. For the literature review to be completed in the allotted space and time, the vast number of articles were sorted by relevance and then their titles scanned quickly. This effort guided decisions on which articles to include and was followed by a scan of the abstracts, which reduced the number of articles to 235. Of these studies, selection for inclusion in this review was made on the basis of whether they were deemed to be important, salient, or interesting, to offer contrasting perspectives, or to be good studies. This review process follows the model of literature review that has been called a "trawl of literature" (Badger et al., 2000), which is commonly employed and serves the purpose of acknowledging sources and sharing writings and research that are interesting and valuable. The same process was employed for the remaining 64 indirect but related studies of PBL and creativity.

Evaluating the Impact of PBL on Creativity: A Review of the Literature

Although not many studies have been conducted to directly investigate the relationship between PBL and creativity, there is a corpus of studies that could shed light on how PBL impacts upon the different creativity components. These investigations primarily take the form of experimental and quasi-experimental studies in naturalistic settings as well as large-scale meta-analyses, albeit mostly in the area of medical education. Most of the studies also focus on comparing PBL with traditional modes of instruction.

In the rest of this chapter, an analysis of the literature on PBL and creativity is presented.

PBL and Creativity

In one of the few noteworthy efforts to directly investigate the link between PBL and creativity, Tan (2000b) examined the impact of a PBL intervention program on students' creativity. Participants comprised experimental and control groups of first-year polytechnic students studying engineering or the applied sciences. Comparing posttest with pretest results, PBL students in both engineering and the applied sciences demonstrated significant gains in creative abilities. Encouraging results have similarly been reported with students in middle grades that showed PBL curricula had the potential to develop mathematical creativity (Kwon et al., 2006; Chamberlin & Moon, 2005).

Although studies that directly investigate the link between PBL and creative capacities have been scarce, there is indirect evidence that may provide some insights. These studies have separately examined the impact of PBL on various components of creative production that may be understood in terms of the three components of creativity defined by Amabile: domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant skills, and task motivation.

PBL and Domain-relevant Skills

Domain-relevant skills provide the fundamental basis for any creative performance to occur. They include factual knowledge or domain knowledge, technical skills, and special talents in the domain in question. To date, this is the aspect of creativity with which formal education has been most concerned (Ruscio & Amabile, 1996), and it is also the component of creativity on which PBL research has mostly focused. There is some evidence that has a bearing on understanding the effectiveness of PBL in fostering this dimension of creativity.

Although the findings are equivocal, the majority of studies reviewed indicate that PBL can make positive contributions to the development of domain knowledge. Specifically, it can help students construct an extensive and flexible knowledge base that constitutes an important part of the domain-relevant skills necessary for creativity to occur.

Pioneering work using meta-analysis to examine research conducted in the area of medical education found that medical students on PBL curricula scored slightly lower than their conventional counterparts on measures of basic science knowledge but slightly better in tests assessing clinical problem solving and on ratings and tests of clinical performance (see, e.g., Albanese & Mitchell, 1993; Vernon & Blake, 1993). In a more recent landmark meta-analysis that endeavored to examine studies outside medical education, PBL was found to have a nonrobust effect on the knowledge of students but a significant moderate positive effect on their knowledge application abilities. In addition, PBL students gained slightly less knowledge but retained more of the acquired knowledge compared with their conventional counterparts (Dochy et al., 2003).

In a study comparing the effectiveness of PBL with traditional teaching in an undergraduate psychiatry program, PBL students performed significantly better in examinations both in multiple-choice questions and the viva (McParland et al., 2004). A similar investigation reported better examination performance from PBL students of physical therapy than from the lecture-based group, although the difference was not significant (Kasai et al., 2006).

Outside medical education, comparisons of PBL with traditional modes of instruction have similarly yielded encouraging results. As a departure from studies that looked at outcome variables, Hmelo-Silver (2000) examined the artifacts that preservice teachers produced in a problem-based educational psychology course. She reported that although the preservice teachers' initial understanding of course concepts was weak, as the course progressed they were able to identify appropriate concepts and apply them with more sophistication across multiple problems. Utilizing pre- and post-test research designs, Derry and colleagues similarly found that, after employing PBL, undergraduate students studying statistical reasoning showed improvement in some of the course content (Derry et al., 2000), while another sample of preservice teachers applied more relevant concepts and produced more sophisticated explanations in an assessment task involving the analysis of a video (Derry et al., 2002).

Beyond undergraduate and professional education contexts, much less work has been done on younger students. Nonetheless, steps have been taken to advance this line of investigation. In a PBL unit on designing artificial lungs, sixth-grade students demonstrated greater gains on a drawing task and in a true-or-false test than control students that suggested they had a better conceptual understanding and a more systematic view of the respiratory system. Although their understandings may be rudimentary and fragmented in areas, they showed clear advancement (Hmelo et al., 2000). PBL was also found to be more effective than the traditional lecture–discussion approach in developing high-school students' macroeconomics knowledge, although the improvement was modest (Maxwell et al., 2005; Mergendoller et al., 2006).

While such studies have provided insights into the effectiveness of PBL in developing the domain-relevant skills necessary for creativity to occur, they were not adequately controlled for potentially confounding variables (Colliver, 2000). To address this concern, Capon and Kuhn (2004) conducted a controlled systematic experimental study in naturalistic instructional settings on adult students enrolled in an executive MBA program with the aim of documenting specific learning outcomes occurring in a specified time frame that were clearly attributable to the PBL method. They observed that students who experienced PBL not only demonstrated improved understanding but were better able to make sense of things in that they were more competent at integrating newly introduced concepts with existing knowledge and showed enhanced conceptual coherence as well as the ability to restructure conceptual understanding.

Taken together, there is a substantial body of research that, to some extent, points to the effectiveness of PBL in supporting the development of domain-relevant skills. The findings in this area of research, however, have not been consistently encouraging. A review of controlled evaluation studies conducted from 1974 to 2000 in continuing medical education, for instance, found limited evidence that PBL increased participants' knowledge and performance (Smits et al., 2002). More recently, Burris (2005), using a quasi-experimental design to compare secondary agriculture students on PBL with students on supervised study, an instructional technique where students are given basic reference materials to help them find information on their own, reported that PBL students obtained lower scores on content knowledge than students on supervised study. Similar findings have been produced by other researchers that showed no difference in the knowledge acquired between PBL medical students and students attending conventional lecture-based classes (e.g., Beers, 2005; Lycke et al., 2006).

On the whole, results are not consistent nor conclusive (see, e.g., the meta-analysis by Gijbels et al., 2005). This is in spite of evidence indicating that PBL can foster, across different domains, the development of domain-relevant knowledge and skills in undergraduate and professional educational contexts (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

PBL and Creativity-relevant Skills

The second component of creative processes is creativity-relevant skills, which include knowledge of heuristics for generating novel ideas as well as appropriate cognitive styles and working styles. A creative working style is characterized by an ability to concentrate for long periods of time and a sense of when to put the problem aside. It is also related to self-discipline, the ability to delay gratification, perseverance in the face of frustration, independence, and nondependence on social approval (Amabile, 1983, 1996; Ruscio & Amabile, 1996). The ability for self-regulation or self-direction is part of this working style. It should be noted that, while there is a greater tendency to use the term self-directed learning (SDL) in the PBL literature, some researchers also employ the similar term self-regulated learning (SRL) (Lycke et al., 2006). The two terms are used interchangeably in this chapter.

At the descriptive level, self-regulated, self-directed individuals are confident, diligent, resourceful, purposeful, strategic-minded, and persistent (Purdie et al., 1996; Zimmerman, 1990). These individuals take the initiative in identifying their learning needs, formulating their learning goals, and choosing their learning resources (Knowles, 1975). They are able to effectively monitor, regulate, and sustain the learning process as well as to apply a variety of appropriate and efficient strategies to the learning problems encountered. They are further capable of maintaining a sense of competence, motivation, and personal agency, accurately diagnosing the character and demands of particular learning challenges, and effectively utilizing and controlling environmental factors that have a bearing on learning outcomes (Lindner & Harris, 1993).

One of the claims of PBL is that it emphasizes the development of SDL or SRL (see, e.g., Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Indeed, there is evidence to support this, such as PBL students' exhibition of more SDL behaviors (Hmelo & Lin, 2000) and significantly better SDL skills (Kasai et al., 2006) than students on a traditional curriculum. These findings have been corroborated with medical students (Lycke et al., 2006; Schmidt et al., 2006), undergraduate computer science students (Dunlap, 2005b), as well as undergraduate physiotherapy students (Yeung et al., 2003). PBL has been reported to produce positive effects on important aspects of SRL in high-school students (Sungur & Tekkaya, 2006), as well as students' self-directedness, although this was dependent on the size of the PBL group (Lohman & Finkelstein, 2000). Blumberg (2000) concluded from a review of the literature on SDL in PBL students that PBL fosters SDL behaviors by encouraging learners to actively seek out information and compelling them to use deep-level processing strategies. Self-direction is promoted as students engage in activities that encourage and enable them to assume more responsibility for their own learning, that urge them to make their cognitive processes overt so that they can monitor and assess the effectiveness of their thinking, and that enculturate them into self-regulation by engaging them in relevant, authentic, and discipline-focused activities (Dunlap, 2005a).

Nonetheless, reviews have established that research on this aspect of PBL has not been extensive (Colliver, 2000; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Kelson, 2000). Work has largely been confined to students in professional training; as such, there is scope for extension to other populations, including younger students, such as those at K–12 levels (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Further, Kelson (2000) has raised the criticism that, paradoxically, SDL or SRL has been stipulated simultaneously as both a prerequisite and an outcome of PBL. Coupled with the paucity of research in this area, the assumption of PBL's contribution may well be erroneous. As a result, some researchers have hypothesized that, while PBL may provide students with the opportunity to develop SDL skills, it may be the case that PBL in itself does not develop the skills (Norman & Schmidt, 1992). As Evensen aptly concludes, "PBL curricula, although requiring self-regulation, do not necessarily develop positive forms of self-regulation" (Evensen et al., 2001, p. 661).

Apart from the ability for self-regulation or self-direction, creativity-relevant skills can also include critical-thinking and problem-solving capabilities. Creativity cannot be divorced from the ability for critical thought, and the two of them are "inseparable, integrated, and unitary" (Elder & Paul, 2007, p. 36). Similarly, problem-solving abilities are regarded by many researchers as one of the most important parts of creativity (Lee & Cho, 2007).

Studies focusing on the effectiveness of PBL in promoting the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills have produced equivocal results. Moore (2007), in evaluating the use of PBL in a baccalaureate dental hygiene program, found positive outcomes in both the target skills of critical thinking and problem solving. Semerci (2006) observed that PBL improved the critical thinking skills of education students in their second year of study. Graduate psychology students in Hays and Vincent's (2004) study felt that PBL promoted critical thinking compared with traditional instructional methods. Undergraduate nursing students on PBL were also reported to register significantly higher scores in critical thinking disposition than those receiving lecture-based instruction, and they continued to show higher scores for two years afterwards, although to a lesser degree (Tiwari et al., 2006). Compared with those from a conventional medical school, graduates of a medical school adopting the PBL approach rated themselves as having better problem-solving competencies (Schmidt et al., 2006).

In contrast to the above findings, other investigations have yielded less favorable results. Secondary agriculture students on PBL produced lower scores on critical thinking abilities when matched against the comparison group put on supervised study (Burris, 2005). PBL was also found not to have substantial effects on the critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities of pharmacy students (Cheng et al., 2003). Lohman and Finkelstein (2000), studying the impact of PBL on students enrolled in a dental education program, observed no significant differences between pre- and post-test measures on any of the problem-solving tasks assigned. However, the authors suggest on the basis of prior literature (Joyce & Weil, 1996; Lohman & Finkelstein, 1999; Newbert & Binko, 1992) that the continual use of PBL over an extended period of time may have a greater probability of promoting this skill.

While the findings on critical thinking skills have been generally positive, the mixed results obtained for problem-solving skills have led to conflicting conclusions among researchers with some concluding that PBL has no obvious effect on learners' problem-solving skills (e.g., Lam, 2004) and others concluding that it does (e.g., Gijbels et al., 2005; Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

PBL and Task Motivation

The third component of creativity—task motivation—accounts for motivational variables that determine an individual's approach to a given task, including one's attitude toward the task and self-perceived motivation for undertaking the task (Amabile, 1983, 1996). PBL possesses the potential to enhance creativity given the contention that it enhances intrinsic motivation. Thus, it is unfortunate that there is a paucity of research that bears directly on this component, with much of the work focusing on student attitudes or satisfaction instead (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

Brinkerhoff and Glazewski (2000), in examining the attitudes of sixth-grade gifted students as well as their teachers toward a hypermedia PBL instructional unit, found evidence that PBL had positive effects on student enjoyment, engagement, and effort, although this was to a large extent determined by their teachers' experience with student-centered teaching methods. Major and Palmer (2001) noted from their review of the literature on medical school research a positive change in student attitudes toward learning when PBL was used, with these students tending to report greater satisfaction and to have more positive attitudes toward their course experiences than those in non-PBL courses. Specifically, these students found their courses to be more engaging and useful. Other reviews of research conducted, not necessarily with medical students, have come to similar conclusions on the effects of PBL on students' attitudes and course opinions (e.g., Albanese & Mitchell, 1993; Chung & Chow, 2004; Lam, 2004; Vernon & Blake, 1993).

Dunlap (2005b) extended this body of research beyond student attitudes to students' self-efficacy, that is, the judgment they make about their own ability to perform a specific task. She observed that self-efficacy of the computer science undergraduates in her study rose by the end of the semester and suggested that the PBL environment could have helped build the students' confidence so that they saw themselves as competent software development professionals who were ready for the workplace. Dunlap's findings are substantiated by other investigations. Middle-school students' self-efficacy in learning science increased after their engagement with a computer-enhanced PBL environment (Liu et al., 2006). Nursing students' perception of empowerment was significantly augmented with PBL, and this perception in turn would likely determine work behavior and attitude (Siu et al., 2005). Such perception was also found to be a significant determinant of health sciences students' intrinsic interest in the subject matter, although this was dependent on how well the tutorial group functioned and on the quality of the problems employed (Van Berkel & Schmidt, 2000).

In contrast to the above results on PBL and student motivation, research yielding mixed findings has been cited by Hmelo-Silver (2004). A study conducted with students attending a PBL course in statistical reasoning found that while some students really enjoyed the class, others resisted making changes to the way they learned and still others disliked various aspects of PBL such as collaborative work (Derry et al., 2000). Although evidence of enhanced motivation has been reported with veterinary students (Ertmer et al., 1996), Hmelo-Silver cautions on the basis of Abrandt Dahlgren and Dahlgren's work (2002) with students from different disciplines that PBL's effect on student motivation may depend on the academic or professional discipline.

Despite the generally encouraging findings, it is important to note that most of the studies have been conducted in the medical school environment. There has been insufficient work examining motivation among other populations, which makes it difficult to draw conclusions about PBL's impact on this aspect in other contexts with other groups of participants (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

Effectiveness of PBL in Cultivating Creativity: Overall Conclusion

This chapter has examined the findings of studies conducted between 2000 and 2008 in an effort to chart the landscape of research on PBL and creativity so as to get a clearer picture of their relationship. Despite the strong interest generated in PBL as a means to cultivate creativity and its sound theoretical rationale, it appears that systematic evidence is scarce and a conclusive answer elusive. There is very little solid empirical evidence supported by a diverse range of high-quality studies that points to the effectiveness of PBL in fostering creativity. Thus, questions about PBL's effectiveness in this aspect are likely to remain.

Overall, there seems to be a lack of conclusive evidence for the efficacy of PBL in developing creativity, although there is indirect evidence pointing to its potential in some specific areas. Research designed to directly investigate the relationship between PBL and creativity is scant, while a plethora of studies investigating the link between PBL and specific components of creativity has produced equivocal or insufficiently supported evidence to be deemed conclusive.

Furthermore, past research when subjected to scrutiny has been found wanting. The current body of research has primarily been conducted with medical students, thus limiting its generalizability. Many studies have also been criticized for their lack of academic rigor and quality, and often the study samples were nonrandomized (Colliver, 2000; Norman & Schmidt, 2000). Several investigations have relied on the subjective feedback and perceptions of students and teachers and therefore do not provide objective evidence (Lam, 2004). It is unclear whether the size of the effects obtained by the body of research is large enough to be of significance, and this affects the credibility of claims (Colliver & Markwell, 2007). In view of these limitations, it is clear that the "jury is still out." Far more research is required before we can decide if PBL can be advocated as an effective means of promoting creative thought.

Toward a More Comprehensive and Productive Research Agenda

There is a dearth of studies that have been conducted to directly investigate the impact of PBL on creativity. To advance the existing knowledge base in this area, gaps in research need to be filled and limitations addressed. Critical to a productive research agenda is a greater devotion to and more rigor in the examination of this link. More specifically, there is a need to make more controlled investigations of PBL in its different forms and to assess its impact on creative thought with different populations and across different domains. Researchers need to deliberate upon how they are to assess the effectiveness of PBL and how they are to assess creativity (using actual measures rather than subjective self-ratings), as this is likely to have a bearing on the conclusions drawn. Additional investigations to shed light on the impact of PBL on the various components of creativity as well as on the mediating factors that might affect creativity as an outcome of PBL could also be beneficial. It would be profitable if future reviews of literature improve on the present one with a more systematic search and selection process. Time and space constraints did not permit a systematic review but primarily a "trawl of the literature." This could limit the conclusions made.

Some authors have expressed weariness with the avalanche of criticism continually being leveled at PBL research methods and findings, terming it a "hyper-reflection," of which the costs and benefits are not clear (see, e.g., Jolly, 2006). Yet others have felt this to be necessary in order to complete the "1000-piece research jigsaw" on PBL effectiveness (see, e.g., Colliver & Markwell, 2007). It seems that the latter view is more befitting in the area of PBL and creativity, where there needs to be more fine-grained analyses of the effects of PBL as well as more concrete evidence to demonstrate its efficacy. As Colliver and Markwell (2007) put it bluntly, "Researchers, reviewers and editors should channel their enthusiasm into getting the methods and findings of research right, rather than letting it directly drive their decisions and conclusions" (p. 533). This research agenda may seem like a demanding one, but it is certainly worth the effort required.


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Problem-based Learning and Creativity: A Review of the Literature

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Problem-based Learning and Creativity: A Review of the Literature