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  • 2020HartescuPhD

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Project-based learning and the development of students' professional identity: A case study of an instructional design course with real clients in Romania

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Ioana Hartescu
Publication date2020
Number of pages247
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Instructional design (ID) education is increasingly moving from a modelbased to a design-based approach, prompting renewed attention on
requirements to align students’ and practitioners’ professional identities. Yet
there is little current understanding of how traditionally-used pedagogies, such
as project-based learning (PjBL), contribute to the necessary identity
development of students.

This project aims to identify connections between students’ development
of professional identity and elements of PjBL, based on a two-year case study
of an ID graduate course in Romania. Data was generated via observations,
focus groups, written reflections and questionnaires. First, using established
PjBL concepts, such as related cases, cognitive tools and contextual support, I
examine how the course design was deployed and received by the students.
Second, using Communities of Practice concepts, such as mutuality of
engagement and trajectories, I analyse how students developed their
professional identity during the course. Third, I integrate the two perspectives
to identify connections emerging throughout the stages of the course.

The findings suggest that incorporating interactions with clients in
student projects benefits students’ development of professional identity, by
facilitating a more complex accountability to a joint enterprise which, in turn,
lessens the need for contextual support from teachers. Yet students’ existing
repertoire of problem-solving, reflection and teamworking skills influences how
they use and benefit from elements of PjBL, such as related cases and cognitive
and collaboration tools. Additionally, those student teams engaging in joint
effort, as opposed to dividing labour, make richer use of the cognitive tools
provided, leading to a more inbound trajectory into ID identity.

The analysis has implications for the effectiveness of PjBL courses, as
well as for interventions designed to develop students’ professional identity.
Moreover, the theoretical analysis widens current perspectives about the
dilemmas and difficulties experienced by students trying to make the transition
into professional life.