Teaching with Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

Introduction

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach of having students work in groups to solve an open-ended problem. With problem-based learning, students will first be presented with a problem, which is ideally a real-world situation that students can relate to or may encounter in the future. Students will then share information and ideas, search for information/evidence, and propose solutions within their groups. There are several benefits to problem-based learning, such as it helps students develop lifelong learning skills, enhances students’ understanding of a topic, and students tend to find it more enjoyable! Teaching with problem-based learning is important because this type of learning helps students develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities while working with their peers!

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching with problem-based learning. The materials below will give you everything you need to implement this teaching strategy into your classroom. 

Lesson Plans

  1. 3 Activities To Get Started With Problem-Based Learning (Plus, Free PD!): We Are Teachers provides 3 activities to get started with problem-based learning. These few activities include brainstorming a problem Padlet, conducting a problem statements gallery walk, and introducing “needs” statement sentence frames. For educators who are looking for problem-based learning activities to bring into their classrooms, this resource has a few great ideas!

Articles

  1. New, Strong Evidence For Problem-Based Learning: Forbes has published an article explaining the new convincing evidence that problem-based learning is effective and that teachers, students, and parents alike prefer it as an instructional method. After discussing the specific aspects of the new research and reports, this article concludes that now we know problem-based learning is effective and well-liked, higher education institutions should learn from this and consider embracing these techniques. For educators who are interested in learning about the research supporting problem-based learning, this article will be very helpful!
  2. Problem-Based Learning – Tips and Project Ideas: Education World offers an article that gives tips and project ideas for problem-based learning. This article discusses what problem-based learning is, the best practices for problem-based learning, ideas for PBL opportunities, and potential barriers (and how to get around them). In addition, there are related resources at the bottom of the article for educators who are interested in learning further about PBL.
  3. Problem-Based Assignments Solve Real-World Issues: Education World provides an article on problem-based assignments solving real-world issues. This article explains how teachers can implement problem-based assignments where students work on investigating and solving a real-world problem. It suggests that educators start with the standards, think application, think authenticity and relevance, think open-endedness, think product, and think content. At the end of the article, there is a science and math example of problem-based learning assignments. Educators who are unsure of how to get started with problem-based learning and are seeking step-by-step guidelines for creating PBL lessons, this article is essential!

Informational Sites

  1. Problem-Based Learning | Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning: The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning at University of Illinois offers a bit of information on problem-based learning, including the characteristics of good PBL problems that transcend fields and general ideas for creating PBL problems.
  2. Problem-Based Learning | Center for Teaching Innovation: Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation provides a brief informational article on problem based learning. This article discusses why problem-based learning should be used, considerations for using problem-based learning, and getting started with problem based learning.
  3. Pearson – Problem Based Learning (PBL): Pearson provides a PDF that contains information on problem-based learning, including a description, its capabilities, and sample design implementations, along with a self-assessment instrument for grading the resulting products of problem-based assignments.
  4. Problem-Based Learning – Planning & Teaching Strategies: Lumen Learning offers information on problem-based learning. This page of information contains key points, definitions, a full text, things the teacher should consider, roles, and outcomes.
  5. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) | Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at University of Maryland at Baltimore: The University of Maryland at Baltimore provides a brief article on problem-based learning. This article explains the instructor role in PBL, the learner role, how to use problem-based learning, the assessment of PBL, and online options.

Conclusion

Teaching with problem-based learning is important because it enhances students’ learning on a topic and allows them to develop skills they can use to solve problems they may encounter in the future. Though problem-based learning may seem similar to project-based learning, the two have some differences that set them apart. Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs. X-BL, an article from Edutopia, explains it best. Project-based learning involves designing a tangible product/performance/event, solving a real-world problem, or investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question. According to the author, project-based learning is essentially a “big tent” model that other “X-BLs,” such as problem-based learning, fall under. On the other hand, with problem-based learning, an open-ended problem is presented, the problem is defined, a list of what we know about the problem and what we need to know is generated, possible solutions are proposed, and findings and solutions are shared. For educators who are interested in learning more about project-based learning, U4SC has created Teaching with Project-Based Learning (PBL).

Additional Resources

  1. 5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Problem-Based Learning [+ Activity Design Steps]: Prodigy has put together a list of 5 advantages and disadvantages of problem-based learning along with steps to designing PBL activities. Educators who want to be informed about both sides—the good and the possible bad—of problem-based learning should check out this article!
  2. Guide on Problem Based Learning: Education Corner has created a guide on problem-based learning. This guide discusses the advantages of problem-based learning, the differences between problem-based learning and inquiry-based learning, creating a problem-based lesson, examples of problems, and lesson structure.
  3. Solving Real-World Issues Through Problem-Based Learning: edutopia provides a video on solving real-world issues through problem-based learning. The video follows a school in Washington D.C. that uses problem-based learning in their classrooms to help students learn content while also solving problems in their community!

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