2016 Seed Grant for Promoting Pedagogical Innovation

Wicked, Messy, Clumsy: Comparing Qualitative Methods for Evaluating Student Experiences in PBL Settings


Research across primary, secondary, and higher education has demonstrated the value and efficacy of problem-based learning (PBL). PBL is especially valuable in preparing students to make decisions amidst complex challenges with uncertain solutions. Less understood, however, is which assessment techniques, particularly which qualitative strategies, are most valuable in understanding student experiences and metacognition. This project, therefore, seeks funding to support exploratory investigations and comparisons of six methods of assessing learning in a complex, problem-solving environment.

Data will be collected in the context of an interdisciplinary short course (“Innovation Challenge”) in summer 2016, organized by the Community for Global Health Equity and focused on one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This project addresses specific reviewers’ comments on a previously submitted NSF Innovations in Graduate Education grant. Results will be leveraged to reapply for this grant program in December 2016.


  • Korydon Smith
    Associate Professor
    Department of Architecture


  • James N. Jensen
    Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering