Previous research indicated that physically disabled children have a low self-efficacy and perceive less control over their own performance than other children. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach that emphasizes interpersonal skills, self-directed learning and problem-solving skills. Acquiring these skills has been demonstrated to increase self-efficacy. This study examined whether the use of PBL would increase self-efficacy and school-related attitudes in physically disabled teenagers. In a quasi-experimental design, 29 physically disabled teenagers received a 9-week geography course in PBL format or their usual geography education. Contrary to our hypothesis, no positive effects of PBL were found and the PBL group even showed a significant decrease in learning-related self-esteem, as compared with the controls. A possible explanation is that the PBL course was too short and not integrated in the whole curriculum. The results emphasize the importance of experimentally testing the effects of new educational methods for use in other populations then the population for which positive results have been reported (university students). This seems particularly true in special populations such as physically disabled children. Additionally, carefully monitoring the implementation process seems especially important here.

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Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Department of Psychology

Könings, K., Wiers, R., van de Wiel, M., & Schmidt, H. (2005). Problem-based learning as a valuable educational method for physically disabled teenagers? The discrepancy between theory and practice. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 17(2), 107–117. doi:10.1007/s10882-005-3683-6