10 Problem-based Learning

In problem-based learning (PBL), complex, ill-structured, authentic problems are used as the vehicle for promoting student learning of concepts and principles. First developed in health care professions and medical education, PBL is a form of team-based learning in which instructors serve as facilitators who provide resources and support students in their self-directed learning. Typically, teams consist of six to ten students. PBL is appropriate for all disciplines, student levels, and course formats, including online, blended, and traditional classroom settings.

Briggs (2015) provides the following framework for engaging students in PBL:

  • Clearly define the purpose of using PBL.
  • Hold early brainstorming sessions with students to identify which topics will be explored.
  • Develop ill-structured or open-ended problems based on the identified topics.
  • Refrain from providing information at the beginning of the case, although minilectures can be used to provide context.
  • Allow time for collaboration.
  • Emphasize depth over breadth.
  • Save time for synthesis and reflection at the end of each session.
  • Facilitate peer feedback.
  • Assess students frequently and through authentic methods.

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