Problem-Based Learning


Problem-Based Learning is an active-engagement, student-centered pedagogical approach to learning through real-world situational problem-solving.  Originating in medical schools as an alternative to lectures, it encourages peer groups to “work like scientists” on practical issues and problems.  Instead of passively listening to lectures or even being led through the Socratic method of teaching through question and answers, it encourages self-directed learning through the exploration of complex, open-ended problems where the instructors facilitate and guide rather than teach.

Best Practices

  • Students work cooperatively in small groups of 4-5 to focus on problems first then are later introduced to concepts by the instructor either through readings or lectures.
  • Create or introduce situational real-world problems to be solved by students based on a presented article or concept.
  • Groups can then work to define the problem and the learning issues –words, concepts or procedures- that they will need to learn before they understand the problem.
  • Help to further define and understand complex concepts through readings, videos, lectures or discussion boards.
  • Consider allowing the assignment to span several modules granting enough time to thoroughly explore the problem.
  • Underscore the importance of creating safe place for discussions where peers will not be feel uncomfortable to contribute.
  • Consider synchronous discussions using Skype or Zoom with a facilitator present to help guide dialogue or redirect students to the learning objectives.