Project- and Problem-Based Learning is Topic of Spring Faculty Institute

Richard F. Vaz

News Story: April 10, 2015

More than 300 faculty members and guests crowded into University Commons at Sacred Heart University for the annual Spring Faculty Institute. The topic was project- and problem-based learning, which continued the theme of high-impact practices that has been the focus of the past few Institutes, says Provost Laura Niesen de Abruna, who coordinated the Institute. Previous sessions have focused on the common intellectual experience, the digital learning environment, global learning and service learning.

The keynote speaker was Richard F. Vaz, dean of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. He shared his personal experiences and successes with project-based learning at WPI. This is slightly different from problem-based learning. Problem-based learning occurs when a faculty member provides students with a problem to solve as opposed to project-based learning where students work on a real-world problem with an outside business or organization. “In both scenarios, students learn teamwork, communication, creative thinking and responsibility,” de Abruna notes.

The day’s agenda also included two panels—one presented by the College of Health Professions and the other by the John F. Welch College of Business. Each included faculty, students and even alumni who shared how their experiences with project- and problem-based learning helped prepare them for their current employment.

Finally, in a panel that revisited the practice of digital learning, Professor Marie Hulme and her honor students presented the website they created to show their journey through Homer’s The Odyssey.

“The Faculty Institutes are always a great opportunity to learn about what other institutions are doing and also to realize that we are already doing some great things at Sacred Heart through such high-impact practices as our problem-based learning programs,” says Lori Bindig, professor of communication & media studies. “It was especially wonderful to see the innovative way our colleagues across the campus are bringing these practices to life with students, such as the demonstration we saw of the project on The Odyssey.”