Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional strategy designed to foster student engagement. This study examined the effectiveness of PBL to actively engage students in a basic public speaking course. An adapted version of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) was administered to students in 47 sections of the public speaking course at a medium-sized midwestern university. Students in the PBL-enhanced sections were significantly more engaged (µ = 33.6) than those in the conventionally taught sections (µ = 32.2). Further analysis examined three variables embedded in the survey: a cooperative learning variable, a cognitive level variable, and a personal skills variable. A multivariate analysis of the three variables revealed significant differences between the PBL-enhanced and conventionally taught section students with relation to cooperative learning, p < .01. No significant difference in cognitive level or personal skill development was revealed between the PBL-enhanced and conventionally taught courses, although the PBL means were slightly higher.



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