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To what extent is problem-based learning effective as compared to traditional teaching in science education? A meta-analysis study

Üstün, Ulaş
The main purpose of this meta-analysis was to investigate the effectiveness of PBL not only on student achievement and motivation in science, but also on attitudes towards science and skills in primary, secondary and higher educational levels. In addition, the effects of some moderator variables including publication type, research design, teacher effect, researcher effect, country, subject matter, school level, PBL mode, length of treatment, group size, type of questions and assessment instrument on the effectiveness of PBL were also examined in the scope of this meta-analysis. 147 effect sizes were revealed from 88 primary studies selected to be included in the meta-analysis based on the inclusion criteria. Random-effects model rather than fixed-effect model was chosen to be conducted to compute effect sizes indicating the effect of PBL on different outcomes while mixed-effect and fully random-effects model were used while performing analog ANOVA for moderator analysis. The results clearly show that PBL is more effective on different outcomes when compared to traditional teaching methods. The results indicate an overall medium mean effect size of 0.633 for PBL effectiveness. More specifically, PBL has a large impact with a large effect size of 0.820 on students’ achievement in science subjects in different levels and reveals medium effect sizes of 0.566, 0.616, and 0.565 for students’ attitude towards science, motivation in science and different kinds of skills, respectively. Moderator analyses indicate that publication type, country, subject area, school level and length of treatment have a noteworthy impact on the effectiveness of PBL.