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Problem Based Learning as a Collaborative Teaching and Learning Strategy

Problem Based Learning as a Collaborative Teaching and Learning Strategy

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will review the components of Problem Based Learning (PBL) and the connection to collaborative teaching and learning.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe, and today I'm going to be discussing with you the topic of problem-based learning as a collaborative teaching and learning strategy. As we explore this topic, we will work towards one main learning objective in this video lesson. Together, we will answer the question, how is problem-based learning connected to collaborative teaching and learning?

Let's begin with an explanation of what problem-based learning is. Problem-based learning, according to Buck Institute for Education, is a type of learning where students have more voice and choice as they are able to determine the course for their learning through the extended process of responding to a question, prompt, or challenge. It is project based with the projects being carefully planned, managed, and assessed.

In problem-based learning, students not only learn content but also 21st century learning skills and authentic products are created and published. The essential elements of problem-based learning are a grasp of content knowledge that's aligned to the standards, an understanding of the four Cs of 21st century learning. Communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

The process of deep inquiry. It's here that resources are used and answers developed. Driving or essential questions is also an essential element. Learning is focused on the open ended question.

The need to know, or students' investment. Why is this important to me? Voice and choice. Choices are given to the students throughout this type of learning as the teacher takes the role of facilitator, not director.

Critique and revision. Feedback is given and received, prompting further inquiry when revisions are needed. And finally, a public audience. The goal of problem-based learning is for the product to be meaningful. Presenting to an authentic audience will help students find the meaning as well as develop skills needed in the real world.

There are six steps to problem-based learning according to Buck Institute for Education. These steps are presentation of "ill-structured problems." These questions are referred to as open ended or messy questions. Problem definition, or the problem statement.

A knowledge inventory is gathered for step number three. What is the problem? What do we need to know? Step number four is possible solutions are generated. Step five is learning issues are formulated for self-directed and coached learning. And the last step is findings and solutions are shared using an authentic product or presentation.

As we continue learning about problem-based learning, it's important to think about what the theory is behind this type of learning. Problem-based learning is deeply rooted in the idea of constructivism. Piaget believed that learners construct and internalize learning when they are engaged in their instruction and allowed to make their own meanings. But for inquiry based models, this concept was discussed as discovery education.

Learning by doing helped promote the ideas of constructivism even more, but in the professional learning community setting. Vygotsky, Montessori, and Bruner were all leaders in this field and all had influences that have assisted in the development of pedagogical approaches to constructivism that are inquiry based. Not all problem-based learning is project based, but projects are generally a tool to guide problem-based learning.

So why is all of this important? According to Alan November in Who Owns the Learning?, problem-based learning is beneficial in many ways. It empower students, calls for engagement, creating collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. All of those four Cs, or 21st century learning skills.

Students also use authentic learning to apply knowledge and understanding to real world solutions and problems. The research supports the impacts of problem-based learning on not only increasing student achievement, but also levels of student engagement. Problem-based learning connects to collaborative teaching and learning in several ways.

First, problem-based learning asks students to use dialogue and discussion. This connects to communication in the four Cs. Problem-based learning also requires problem solving and collaboration, which connects to critical thinking and collaboration. Problem-based learning involves development of solutions to open ended problems or questions, which entails critical thinking and creativity. And finally, students in problem-based learning are asked to present and defend solutions as a team, which connects to all four of the 21st century learning skills.

This lesson has been packed full of key information in making these connections and deeply understanding problem-based learning and where it fits into collaborative learning. So let's review what we learned today. We covered the question, how is problem-based learning connected to collaborative teaching and learning. We talked about problem-based learning where students learn collaboratively by using a guided question or prompt.

We discussed the steps, benefits, importance, and the development of problem-based learning. Now that you're more familiar with the concepts of problem-based learning, let's apply these ideas by reflecting on the question, who can you collaborate with to ensure that you can effectively connect problem-based learning and collaborative teaching and learning into your teaching?

Thanks for joining me today as we discussed the lesson problem-based learning as a collaborative teaching and learning strategy. I hope you found value in this topic and are able to apply these ideas and concepts to your own teaching. For more information on how to apply what you've learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on “Problem Based Learning as a Collaborative Teaching and Learning Strategy”


(00:00- 00:20) Introduction/Objectives

(00:21- 00:55)  What is PBL?

(00:56- 01:54) Elements of PBL

(01:55- 02:32) Steps of PBL

(02:33- 03:22)  Theory Behind PBL

(03:23- 03:57) Importance of PBL

(03:58- 04:35) Connecting Collaborative Teaching and Learning to PBL

(04:36- 05:03) Recap

(05:04- 05:48) Reflection 

Additional Resources

Speaking of Teaching: Problem-Based Learning

This article is a comprehensive look at Problem Based Learning. In addition to providing an overview, this article provides clear steps to develop ill-structured problems-- a cornerstone of Problem Based Learning. The right hand side of the article includes tips for teachers as they implement Problem Based Learning in their classrooms.

The Benefits of Ill-Structured Problem Solving Through Making

The Maker Movement suggests the benefits of ill-structured problems in making. Included in the article are examples and strategies to include ill-structured problems in already established curriculum. The example provided from NYSED's 4th grade science curriculum can serve as a model for you to include ill-structured problems in your own curriculum/lessons.