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Problem-Based Learning

Problem-Based Learning

Author: Ashley Sweatt

In this lesson, you will analyze the theories and application of problem based learning

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Hi. My name is Ashley, and today's lesson is titled Problem-Based Learning as Defined by the Buck Institute. In today's lesson, we will learn what is the theory behind PBL and define problem-based learning. We will also look at the steps of problem-based learning and discover how it is significant. Lastly, we will show how PBL is connected to the five principles of personalized learning.

What is the theory behind PBL? Problem-based learning is connected to the theory of constructivism. Constructivism is associated with the theorist Jean Piaget, whose beliefs were that learners construct knowledge from the activities they're involved with and instruction they receive. Discovery education preceded the inquiry-based model.

Constructivism was made known by the idea of learning by doing through the work of Richard and Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Thomas Many. Some well-known leaders and theorists in the field were Vygotsky, Montessori, and Bruner. Inquiry-based and problem-based learning are pedagogical approaches to the constructivist theory. Some project-based learning is also project-based. But it's important to know that not all problem-based activities are project-based.

What is problem-based learning? Problem-based learning is a learning approach that allows students to learn through the investigations that involve solving challenging problems. There are eight essential elements of PBL. Important content-- information and concepts must be in line to the standards. 21st-century competencies-- objectives must involve problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Extensive inquiry is also a part of problem-based learning. It offers a detailed process of asking questions, utilizing resources, and generating answers. A driving question-- problem-based learning involves a question or hook that engages students and sets the stage for the inquiry process. Need to know-- students have the desire to build knowledge in order to answer the driving question.

Voice and choice-- students have the freedom to make their own choices about their work. Editing and revising-- students can give and receive constructive criticism on the quality of their work, which may lead to revisions and further inquiry. Lastly, a public audience-- students present their work beyond their classroom. This could be other students in the building or parents of your students.

What are the steps of PBL? First, a problem is presented. Recall that PBL focuses on open-ended questions, so an open-ended question may be presented. The problem is defined, and students are aware of what they need to figure out. Form a knowledge inventory. This is a list of the things that we know about the problem and what we need to find out. List possible solutions to the problem. Create a list of learning issues. At the end of the lesson, share the results and findings of the investigation.

Why is problem-based learning significant? Researchers have commented how problem-based learning is important. According to Alan November in his book, Who Owns the Learning, PBL motivates and engages students with the use of collaboration, and creation, and critical thinking skills. Universities, such as Stanford and the University of Delaware, found in their research that PBL increases student engagement and achievement.

How does PBL connect to the five principles of personalized learning? PBL is connected to four out of the five principles of personalized learning. Problem-based learning allows students to work at their own pace while they investigate the problem. The teacher isn't standing in front the class giving out information. But instead, the teacher acts as a coach and facilitates learning by assisting students when needed.

Problem-based learning can also be project-based learning where there is an end product. Lastly, PBL focuses on a student-driven learning path, where students are able to have control of their learning and have choice on the activities they perform. Let's recap what we have talked about in today's lesson.

The theory behind PBL is Piaget's Theory of Constructivism. Problem-based learning is an approach that allows students to learn through investigations. Some of the steps of PBL is first presenting the problem, forming a knowledge inventory, and lastly, share findings. Problem-based learning is significant because researchers have found that it motivates and engages students and uses collaboration creativity, and critical thinking skills. PBL is connected to four out of five principles of personalized learning, one of which is flexible learning.

As we bring the lesson to a close, think about how your students can benefit from problem-based learning. Begin thinking about topics that can be integrated to plan your own problem-based learning experience. As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.

Notes on "Problem-Based Learning"


(00:00 - 00:17) Introduction

(00:18 - 00:40) What Will You Learn Today?

(00:41 - 01:35) What is the Theory Behind PBL?

(01:36 - 03:12) What is Problem-Based Learning?

(03:13 - 03:48) What Are the Steps of PBL?

(03:49 - 04:23) Why is Problem-Based Learning Significant?

(04:24 - 05:08) How Does PBL Connect to the 5 Principles of Personalized Learning?

(05:09 - 05:52) What Did You Learn Today?

(05:53 - 06:24) Reflection


Additional Resources

Problem-Based Learning
This article is a comprehensive look at problem based learning that contains links to related resources.

Problem-Based Learning at University of Delaware

This website offers an overview of problem based learning for teachers. In addition, if you click on the link on the right hand side of the site, you will find a clearinghouse of problems that you can use with your class. By clicking on the Resources tab, you will find additional lessons and tools to use to implement problem based learning in your classroom.