Problem-Based Learning


  • Want to engage students?
  • Help them develop flexible knowledge?
  • Effective problem solving skills?
  • Teach them how to be self-directed learners?
  • To have effective collaboration skills and intrinsic motivation?
  • Put the responsibility of learning on them?

Then problem-based learning is for you!

What is problem based learning? PBL is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem.

    • The problem is what drives the motivation and the learning.
      Instead of teaching  material and  having students apply the knowledge to solve problems, the problem is presented first. Students generally must:
    • Examine and define the problem.
    • Explore what they already know about underlying issues related to it.
    • Determine what they need to learn and where they can acquire the information and tools necessary to solve the problem.
    • Evaluate possible ways to solve the problem.
    • Solve the problem.
    • Report on their findings.

PBL assignments can be short or they can be longer. PBL is often group oriented

Why use PBL?

PBL teaches students how to

  • Work in teams.
  • Management skills.
  • Oral and written communication.
  • Self-awareness.
  • Working independently.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Self-directed learning.
  • Applying course content to the real world.
  • Researching and information literacy.
  • Problem solving and transfer of learning.

Steps to designing a PBL project

  • Explain the learning outcomes of the project. What do you want students to know or learn.
  • Create the problem. It should be a real-world situation, this helps with transfer of learning.
  • Establish rules at the beginning to prepare students to work well in groups.
  • Give your students different roles based on their strengths.
  • Establish how you will evaluate and assess the assignment. Have the students evaluate themselves and each other.


Alexander, P. (2006). Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Bash, L. (2003). Adult learners in the academy. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Problem-Based Learning. (2014, July 16). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

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