Problem-Based Learning (Teaching and Learning)

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How to Implement Problem-based Learning (PBL)?

  1. Students work in small groups of 6 to 8 with the aids of a facilitator or tutor.
  2. Students are confronted with an ill-structured problem that mirrors real-world problems.
    1. Well chosen problems encourage students to define problems, identify what information is needed, and engage in solution generation and decision making.
  3. The tutor guides the students through the problems, and to provide them with ongoing formative evaluation.
  4. The tutorial is where learning issues are developed and information is shared, discussed and integrated back into the problem. In addition, it is a place where clarification of concepts can occur as well as a place to share useful resources.
  5. Each individual is responsible for his/her own learning, and for making sure the tutorial meets his/her own needs.

Why Use Problem-based Learning (PBL)?

PBL is a learning environment in which the problem drives the learning. That is, students are given a problem before they learn some knowledge. The problem is posed so that the students discover that they need to learn some new knowledge before they can solve the problem. Posing the problem before learning tends to motivate students. They know why they are learning the new knowledge. Learning in the context of the need-to-solve-a-problem also tends to store the knowledge in memory patterns that facilitate later recall for solving problems.


Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.

  • Delisle, R. (1997). How to use problem-based learning in the classroom. Alexandria, VA : ASCD. Ubc-elink.png
  • Duch, B. J., Allen, D. E., White, H. B. III. (1997-1998). Problem-based learning: Preparing students to succeed in the 21st century. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 9(5). Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Kek, M. Y. C. A., & Huijser, H. (2011). The power of problem-based learning in developing critical thinking skills: Preparing students for tomorrow's digital futures in today's classrooms. Higher Education Research and Development, 30(3), 329-341. Ubc-elink.png
  • Pease, M. A., & Kuhn, D. (2011). Experimental analysis of the effective components of problem-based learning. Science Education, 95(1), 57-86. Ubc-elink.png
  • Rossiter, D., Petrulis, R., & Biggs, C. A. (2010). A blended approach to problem-based learning in the freshman year. Chemical Engineering Education, 44(1), 23-29. Ubc-elink.png

UBC Resources

Problem-Based Learning Network

Online Resources

  • [1] - Pan-American PBL group
    “The Pan-American PBL group hosts biannual conferences; proceedings and documents from past conferences, as well as information about upcoming conferences, are available at this site”
  • [2] - National Centre for Case Study Teaching in Science
    “The National Centre for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) hosts a database of over 395 cases for science teaching. Each case has an overview, downloadable teaching notes, and additional resources. The NCCSTS has also created case study training videos, available for order on the same site."

See Also

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