University of Limerick
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“What’s the Problem?” Exploring the potential for a problem-based learning approach to foster meaningfulness in post-primary Physical Education in Ireland

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posted on 2022-10-20, 07:51 authored by Pat Gleeson
The aim of this interpretive qualitative case study was to conduct exploratory and evaluative research around the potential of problem-based learning (PBL) to foster meaningfulness in post-primary Physical Education in Ireland, specifically aligned with the Health-Related Physical Activity (HRPA) curriculum model of the Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) framework. The study was a 12-week, interpretive case study with two data collection points in one Irish post-primary school. Methods for data collection were focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews, a teacher-researcher journal and questionnaires. The data analysis involved a thematic analysis approach. Implementation challenges arose such as adapting to changes in practise, insufficient class time allotment and a lack of supports for teachers. However, the learning experienced through a PBL approach in SCPE during this study was meaningful for students as it corresponded directly with students' future lives outside of school. Simultaneously PBL facilitated students' social and academic learning, promoted a more inclusive environment that was accessible to students, and allowed for student ownership of their own learning. PBL was also effective in educating students to apply SCPE content to future problematic situations. Thus, PBL enabled opportunities for transformative learning to occur. The findings of this study suggest that a PBL approach can be adapted to other subjects across post-primary senior cycle education. PBL also aligns with experiences viewed as desirable for senior cycle students by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in the recently published Senior Cycle Review: Consultation Document. PBL can be effective in helping students to reach the learning outcomes of SCPE and to value their Physical Education experience. Provided the cost of implementation is not too great, this should be sufficient justification to offer PBL as part of the post-primary education experience for students within Physical Education lessons and in their broader senior cycle education as a whole. PBL as an ‘umbrella’ instructional strategy is therefore both timely and evolutionary.



  • Master (Research)

First supervisor

MacPhail, Ann

Second supervisor

Comyns, Thomas M.





Department or School

  • Physical Education and Sports Science

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