The attention for supporting students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at university has recently grown. However, no research to date has looked into the fit between autism symptomatology and a specific form of education, problem-based learning (PBL). To examine the fit between individuals scoring high on the autism spectrum and the characteristics of PBL, a new questionnaire was developed that focuses on the core elements of PBL: learning as a constructive, self-directed, collaborative, and contextual process. This new questionnaire and an ASD symptomatology questionnaire, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), were filled out online by university social sciences and humanities students. The findings show that higher ASD symptomatology predicted experiencing more problems (F(3, 103) = 15.24, p < .001, R 2 = .31) and fewer benefits (F(3, 103) = 10.28, p < .001, R 2 = .23) of PBL. However, these experiences were not accompanied by lower grades (F(3, 103) = 0.36, p = .784, R 2 = .01). These results are in contrast with previous findings from traditional, lecture-based curricula, in which students scoring high on the autism spectrum perform worse than students scoring low on the autism spectrum. The discrepancy between experiencing more problems and less benefits but no effect on performance is explained by accommodation and desirable difficulties, stating that the characteristics offered by PBL might help students scoring high on the spectrum develop the skills necessary to succeed in (university) education.

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Keywords Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) . University education . Students . Problem-based learning (PBL) .Autism spectrum hypothesis
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Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
de Groot, K, & Smeets, G. (2017). The Relationship Between Autism Symptomatology, Performance, Experienced Problems and Benefits in Problem-Based Learning Curricula. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 1(4), 308–321. doi:10.1007/s41252-017-0037-1