Problem Based Learning (PBL)


In Problem-Based learning, "the problem drives the learning." Students are given a problem to solve that requires gathering new knowledge before they can solve it. The problem is posed before the learning in order to motivate learning and enhance long-term retention and application to new material. The links below describe the process for using this approach and provide numerous examples in all disciplines.


General Resources

"Problem-Based Learning," Speaking of Teaching, Stanford University Newsletter on Teaching, Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 2001
Describes the features of PBL and the process for using it, including assessment.

"Problem-based Learning, especially in the context of large classes," Don Woods (McMaster University).
An overview of PBL with examples of using PBL in a chemical engineering program. Links to an online book about PBL.

Leap into Problem-based Learning (University of Adelaide, Au).
This link provides a downloadable 69-page PDF document designed to introduce PBL and guide instructors new to PBL through all the stages of developing, using, and assessing PBL in their courses. This in-depth handbook would also be helpful to the more experienced PBL user.

Problem-Based Learning (University of Delaware).
A comprehensive, award-winning site with links to the PBL Clearinghouse; sample PBL problems, courses, and syllabi; and other PBL sites.

Problem-Based Learning Clearinghouse (University of Delaware).
Free registration to the PBL Clearinghouse gives the user access to a wide range of PBL problems and articles.

Web Resources on Problem-Based Learning (Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences).
Maintains a fully annotated collection of links to PBL sites in the following categories: Introduction, Methods & Tools, Learning Issues, Medline Searches, PBL Centers, and Additional Resources.

When is PBL More Effective? A Meta-synthesis of Meta-analyses Comparing PBL to Conventional Classrooms, Strobel, J.  & van Barneveld, A. (2009). Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1).
Here is a study on the effectiveness of PBL that concludes “PBL was superior… [in] long-term retention, skill development and satisfaction of students and teachers, while  traditional approaches were more effective for short term retention as measured by standardized board exams.”

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