Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method where relevant problems are introduced at the beginning of the instruction cycle and used. to provide the context and motivation for the learning that follows. It is always active and usually (but not necessarily) collaborative or cooperative using the above definitions. PBL typically involves significant amounts of self-directed learning on the part of the students.
Problems can also be discussed and solved online.
This is a simplified model in 5 steps. Steps two through five may be repeated and reviewed as new information becomes available and redefines the problem.
Step six may occur more than once–especially when teachers place emphasis on going beyond “the first draft.”
1. Exploring the issues
The teacher/trainer introduces an “ill-structured” problem. The students discuss the problem statement and list its significant parts. Often it is necessary that students gather information and learn new concepts, principles, or skills as they engage in the problem-solving process.
2. Listing “What do we know?”
This includes both what students actually know and what strengths and capabilities each team member has. It is important to consider or note everyone’s input, no matter how strange it may appear: it could hold a possibility!
3. Developing the problem statement
A problem statement should come from the group’s analysis of what students know and what they will need to know to solve it.
4. Listing out possible solutions
Students can list them all, then order them from strongest to weakest
They can choose the best one, or most likely to succeed.
5. Listing actions to be taken with a timeline
Research the knowledge and data that will support students’ solution.
They will need to information to fill in missing gaps.
Discuss possible resources
Experts, books, web sites, etc.
Assign and schedule research tasks, especially deadlines.
6. Presenting the solution
Students will present their findings and/or recommendations to a group or their classmates. This should include the problem statement, questions, data gathered, analysis of data, and support for solutions or recommendations based on the data analysis: in short, the process and outcome. The goal is to present not only their conclusions, but the foundation upon which they rest, supporting it with documentation. Sharing findings with teachers and students is an opportunity in demonstrating that they have learned.
7. Reviewing the performance
This debriefing exercise applies both to individuals and the group, so that they can reflect on what they did well ad learn from what they have not done well.
Tripartite assessment (self-assessment, peer-assessment, teacher assessment)
Case-based individual essays
Reflective (online) journals.
Study Guides and Strategies Problem-based learning
Ranald Macdonald Assessment Strategies for Enquiry and Problem-based learning
Our Project Objective
eLene4Life supports curriculum innovation in higher education (HE) through the development of active learning approaches for transversal skills, with the ultimate aim of improving students’ employability.
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
This project No. 2018-1-FR01-KA203-047829 has been funded by Erasmus + programme of the European Union.