Skip to main content
Students’ Perceptions of their Initial PBL Experiences in Engineering Education in Malaysia
Administration and Research Conference Papers
  • Wan H Wan Muhd Zin, University of Newcastle
  • Anthony Williams, Avondale College of Higher Education
  • Willy Sher, University of Newcastle
Author Faculty (Discipline)
Document Type
Conference Proceeding
Publication Date
Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference
Reportable Items (HERDC/ERA)
Peer Review
Before publication

BACKGROUND Higher education in engineering and technical fields should prepare graduates to take on the increasingly challenging roles required of the engineering profession. Engineering graduates are expected to be responsible for their own personal and professional development. In view of this, the German Malaysian Institute (GMI), an established technical education provider in Malaysia, has adopted Problem-based learning (PBL) as its innovative approach. The main objective is to prepare technologists and industrial workers who are well-grounded with soft skills and abilities. These include abilities to apply knowledge, higher order thinking skills, and personal values, alongside strong handson and technical skills.

PURPOSE This paper describes the implementation of Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a new approach in the context of engineering education at GMI. It provides an analysis of the first cohort of students’ feedback of their initial experiences of PBL after its implementation in January 2010. The paper focuses the first years’ student experiences specifically looking to better understand the ways in which they engage with PBL.

DESIGN/METHOD A questionnaire survey was administered to 115 first year students in the Department of Industrial Electronic, after four weeks of PBL implementation in the first semester of their studies. The survey addressed the students’ perspectives on PBL course content, course delivery, self-motivation and PBL assessment. Section A required students to answer using a Likert scale of 1-5 (where 1 meant Strongly Disagree to 5 which meant Strongly Agree). Section B requested open-ended feedback on PBL implementation and difficulties students experienced with PBL. The survey was conducted to evaluate and refine the process of PBL implementation at a very early stage.

RESULTS Overall, students’ initial feedback was positive and provides encouragement to continue with the PBL approach. This is despite the typical problems that student face including the challenges of working in groups, insufficient resources or insufficient time to complete the problem given. The survey results provide insights into what the majority of students recognise as the benefits of PBL especially in enhancing their critical thinking, problem-solving skills and team-working skills.

CONCLUSIONS The findings of the survey indicated that it is clear much can still be done to make PBL a success. The Department of Industrial Electronics have taken immediate measures to address the issues raised by students. Our findings support the notion that PBL is suited to be adopted in engineering disciplines because it nurtures critical thinking and problem-solving skills which are central to a graduate’s career in engineering.


Due to copyright restrictions this conference proceeding is unavailable for download.

This conference proceeding may be accessed from the publisher here.

At the time of writing Anthony Williams was also affiliated with the University of Newcastle

Citation Information

Wan Muhd Zin, W. H., Williams, A. P., & Sher, W. D. (2013). Students’ perceptions of their initial PBL experiences in engineering education in Malaysia. In C. Lemckert, G. Jenkins, & S. Lang-Lemckert (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2013 AAEE Conference. Paper presented at the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Gold Coast, 8-11 December (pp. 1-9). Brisbane, Australia, Griffith University.