Implementing Problem-Based Learning in the College Classroom

Ohio Wesleyan Professor Leads Discussion on Pedagogical Process at National Science Meeting
Jennifer R. Yates, right, director of Ohio Wesleyan's neuroscience program, guided a discussion about problem-based learning Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Before the event, she discussed the concept with OWU colleagues. (Photo by Cole Hatcher)

Jennifer R. Yates, right, director of Ohio Wesleyan’s neuroscience program, guided a discussion about problem-based learning Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Before the event, she discussed the concept with OWU colleagues. (Photo by Cole Hatcher)

CHICAGO – Jennifer R. Yates, Ph.D., director of Ohio Wesleyan University’s neuroscience program, says college classrooms can be structured to help science students develop higher-order thinking skills and effectively transfer those skills to real-world issues.

Yates, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio Wesleyan, will guide a discussion about problem-based learning at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Feb. 13-17 in Chicago.

“With problem-based learning, students are given carefully chosen issues to address, rather than facts to memorize about those issues,” Yates said. “Problem-based learning requires the students to determine what they don’t know, how to obtain that missing information, and how to apply what they’ve learned now and in the future.”

Yates is one of four presenters leading a three-hour workshop for AAAS attendees titled “Thinking Skills for the 21st Century: Teaching for Transfer.” Her segment, “Creating Opportunities for Practice-with-Feedback,” discusses how to get started with problem-based learning, including how to plan and grade examinations.

The workshop was organized by Amy B. Mulnix, Ph.D., a cell biologist at Indiana-based Earlham College, who will discuss “What Does ‘Teaching for Transfer’ Mean?” Co-organizer Eleanor V.H. Vandegrift, M.A., associate director of the University of Oregon’s Science Literacy Program, will discuss “The Interactive Classroom,” and S. Raj Chaudhury, Ph.D., associate director of the Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at Alabama-based Auburn University, will share information about “Using Technology to Foster Transfer.”

Learn more about the workshop at aaas.confex.com/aaas/2014/webprogram/Session7138.html.

At Ohio Wesleyan, Yates investigates the mechanisms of damage after spinal cord injury. She is especially interested in “the mechanisms of further injury that are mediated by the immune reaction to a primary spinal cord injury.”

“I investigate the pathological processes that happen and therapeutic intervention in these processes that may spare motor and sensory functions after neurotrauma,” said Yates, who joined the Delaware, Ohio-based university in 2007.

Learn more about Yates at psychology.owu.edu/YatesJennifer.html and more about Ohio Wesleyan’s neuroscience program at neuroscience.owu.edu.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private, coed university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world practice. OWU’s 1,850 students represent 42 states and 37 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.

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