14 November 2009

Problem Based Learning

Problem based learning (PBL) is not simply throwing a problem to the students and let them figure out the solutions all by themselves. There are significant support elements to guide the students in the learning. It is actually a well defined, structured instructional method that students work through in seven steps with appropriate scaffolding support, learning resources, instructional support, tutor support, group discussions, etc.:
  1. students clarify any terms and concepts in the problem text
  2. generate a definition of the problem (or what is really the problem to be solved)
  3. students brainstorm ideas, hypothesize, question about the problem
  4. systematize and scrutinize the ideas
  5. produce a list of issues for individual learning (the learning goals / contents behind the problem)
  6. the learning issues are used to guide student study activities where students study the available resources
  7. students share findings, review and discuss literature, solve other problems, and synthesize what is learned.
PBL is therefore not equated to minimally guided instruction (Schmidt et al. 2007) (Hmelo-Silver et al, 2007).


Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R.G., Chinn, C.A. (2007). Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist. 42(2), pp 99 - 107.

Schmidt, H.G., Loyens, S.M., van Gog, T., Paas, F. (2007). Problem-Based Learning is Compatible with Human Cognitive Architecture: Commentary on Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), pp 91 - 97.

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