Problem-Based Learning and Management Development – Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

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Problem-based learning has been used as a learning device in medical school classrooms for some time and has recently been used in the management classroom, since at least 2004. Although theory about the effectiveness of problem-based learning and practical advice about implementing problem-based learning abound, the empirical evidence available to date suggests problem-based learning primarily impacts problem solving and critical thinking skill but not necessarily knowledge acquisition. This paper presents an overview of the prevailing theoretical approach to problem-based learning. Then presents a comprehensive review of the empirical literature on problem-based learning with a focus on its application to the management classroom. Finally, the paper presents an alternative, novel pedagogical theory, Montessorian theory, as applied to problem-based learning, that aligns theory and prevailing research better than the existing theoretical conception. Montessorian theory as applied to problem-based learning can lead to a better understanding of the effectiveness of problem-based learning, focus on more appropriate learning objectives and learning outcomes, and have implications for future research, curricular development, and assessment of learning outcomes in the management classroom.