To what extent is Problem-Based Learning (PBL) an effective approach to the design and delivery of 'avocational' and 'liberal' undergraduate programmes? A case study of Law at York Law School

Monday 16 November 2015, 12.30PM to 2.00pm

Speaker(s): Carrie Bradshaw, York Law School

York Law School (YLS) is the only Law School in the country to adopt a fully integrated ‘Problem Based Learning’ (PBL) approach to its undergraduate degree programme. YLS’s innovation in this regard was the main learning & teaching attraction of York to me when I applied to work here.  However, I have observed a tendency for PBL to gear student thinking and skills, and even module design, toward more ‘vocational’ questions, arguments and approaches etc, whereas the purpose of an undergraduate degree should arguably include more ‘avocational’ or ‘liberal’ goals: where the aim is not purely to prepare students for a particular job or profession, but to foster the “pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake”.

Is this vocational “feel” inherent to PBL, and thus a straight jacket to the liberal arts university law school, particularly in view of PBL’s origins in the medical field with explicit aims of fostering clinical or professional skills?  Or is controlling this perceived slant more a challenge of appropriate design when transplanting PBL to other disciplines beyond medicine? Furthermore, how does the adoption of PBL fit within broader debates regarding the purpose of Universities and the “global knowledge economy”, the contemporary contours of which represent a perceived challenge to the very idea of a liberal education?

Tea, coffee, water and juice will be available, please feel free to bring your own lunch.

To book your place, please use our booking form or email

Location: Ron Cooke Hub, room RCH/017, Heslington East campus