Engaging Students in Problem-Based Learning. VU5

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problem-based learning


  • 01/31/2007 11:37 AMmcli Forum: Spring 2001: Teaching and Learning (1)

    Page 1 of 4file:///Users/adrianlee/Desktop/Victoria%20University%20Consultantging%20Students%20in%20Problem-Based%20Learning.%20VU5.webarchive

    Problem-BasedLearninginvolves theuse of complex,"real-world"problems as thestimulus andframework forlearning. It isbased on thepremise thatstudents will bemotivated to"want to know"and solve the

    http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/forum/ Spring 2001 : cover : contents : prev : next

    Teaching and Learning

    Engaging Students inProblem-Based Learning.


    roblem-Based Learning, also known as PBL, is commanding increasing attention as anapproach to education that promotes students' active engagement in learning and

    involves them in thinking about their learning. Howard Barrows and Ann Kelson,renowned experts in PBL from Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine, havedefined PBL as a total approach to education: there is a PBL process and there is a PBLcurriculum. PBL, however, is not equivalent to "problem-centered" or "project-based"methodologies or problem-solving activities, though it includes elements also found inthose.

    So, what is PBL? Problem-Based Learning involves theuse of complex, "real-world" problems as the stimulusand framework for learning. It is based on the premisethat students will be motivated to "want to know" andsolve the problem posed because it is presented in acontext that simulates real world situations. Acquiringknowledge in the context in which it is meant to be usedfacilitates recall and application of concepts and skillslearned (Gijselaers, 1996). Furthermore, as studentsengage in solving the problem, they develop criticalthinking and problem solving skills while learningcontent and skills essential to the course.

    PBL is not new. This educational approach has beenused in medical schools for at least 3 decades. In 1969McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciencesdeveloped a new medical school curriculum usingproblem-based learning as its foundation. This newapproach was to be used throughout the entire 3-yearcurriculum. By the early 1980s, other medical schoolshad adopted a curriculum based on PBL, some as aparallel program for a subset of students, others in


  • 01/31/2007 11:37 AMmcli Forum: Spring 2001: Teaching and Learning (1)

    Page 2 of 4file:///Users/adrianlee/Desktop/Victoria%20University%20Consultantging%20Students%20in%20Problem-Based%20Learning.%20VU5.webarchive

    and solve theproblem posedbecause it ispresented in acontext thatsimulates realworldsituations.

    specific courses or as an entire curriculum. Not untilmore recently, however, has PBL been embraced byinstitutions of higher education in areas of educationother than health related.

    As PBL has been disseminated and adapted to meetspecific curricular needs, it has evolved. Manyinstitutions have designed "hybrid" approaches to theircurriculum, blending PBL with elements of conventionalinstructional approaches. However, in spite of thevariations in implementation, some elements will alwaysbe required to make PBL effective and true to its intent:

    Learning is student centered. Students are encouraged to become actively engagedin the process and become responsible not only for their own learning, but for thelearning of others in the group.Learning occurs in collaborative environments. Students work in small groups of 5-10 individuals and build teamwork skills as they try to solve the problem together.Teachers act as facilitators, called "tutors." Teachers do not lecture to delivercontent, but guide students in the processes of discovery, inquiry, analysis andreporting.Problems are the stimulus for learning and are a vehicle for the development ofproblem-solving skills. Problems have no single "right" answers; students learn bytrying to solve the problem.

    According to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, the aim of PBL is

    to produce students who will Engage a challenge (problem, complex task, situation)with initiative and enthusiasm.Reason effectively, accurately and creatively, from an integrated, flexible and usableknowledge base.Employ effective self-directed learning skills to continue learning as a lifetimehabit.Continuously monitor and assess the adequacy of their knowledge, problem-solvingand self-directed learning skills to achieve a desirable outcome given a challenge.Collaborate effectively as a member of a team working to achieve a common goal.

    The PBL Process

    PBL has been described by Barrows and Tamblyn (cited by Wilkerson and Gijselaers,1996) as a process of "hypothetico-deductive" reasoning: students need to acquire dataessential to solving the problem, synthesize the data into hypotheses, and then test thosehypotheses by collecting additional data. The process can also be thought of as a cycle ofanalysis-research-report.

    In a PBL environment, students are asked to solve a given problem. The problem is posedto the students before relevant information has been presented through any medium,including texts or lectures, about the subject matter underlying the problem.

    Students work in small groups of 5-10 to analyze the problem and determine whatinformation they already have and what information they do not know and need to learnin order to solve the problem. First, students brainstorm ideas that could be possiblesolutions or ideas that could lead to solutions after more information has been gathered.In other words, they propose hypotheses. Then, they list facts based on their priorknowledge and generate questions or "learning issues" about what kind of knowledge or

  • 01/31/2007 11:37 AMmcli Forum: Spring 2001: Teaching and Learning (1)

    Page 3 of 4file:///Users/adrianlee/Desktop/Victoria%20University%20Consultantging%20Students%20in%20Problem-Based%20Learning.%20VU5.webarchive

    information they need to acquire to explain the fundamental causes of the problem. Eachstudent, or a group of students, selects one or more learning issues to research anddevelops a plan of action: what to investigate and how to go about investigating it. Thelearning issues define the focus of the self-directed learning process. New information isacquired through self-directed learning, when students work together discussing,comparing, and reviewing what they have learned. Students do research on the learningissues using a variety of resources. Students may work in groups or individually, but timeis available for independent study.

    Students return to the group and report on what new information they have gathered.They review the problem and assess progress in light of the new knowledge. Hypothesesare revised. New learning issues may arise. The cycle is repeated until the problem hasbeen resolved. Once they are finished with a problem, students engage in self and peerassessment of their performance.

    The instructor, acting as a tutor, facilitates the process by asking probing questions,monitoring the problem-solving process, and making resources available.

    What is an Effective PBL "Problem"?

    A problem is a statement of a real-life scenario designed to challenge learners, promotethe acquisition of knowledge, encourage the development of effective problem-solvingand critical thinking skills, and require collaboration with peers. Problems need to berelevant to incite students' interest and their desire to solve the problem and to maintainmotivation. Typically, scenarios focus on current events; the students' life, field of study,or line of work; classic works within a discipline; application of concepts to everyday life.The most effective problems are complex, open-ended, present a minimal amount ofinformation, and do not have one right solution or require only one way of reaching asolution. These types of problems ensure that students get engaged in the process ofanalysis, generation of hypotheses, inquiry, evaluation of data, and decision making.

    Developing an effective PBL problemis not easy. It requires training in problemdevelopment and a considerable amount of time for the design. If you are interested inlearning more about PBL and how to develop effective PBL problems, plan to attend:

    PBL in MaricopaApril 20, 2001

    8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.Featuring Ann Kelson

    Estrella Mountain Community CollegeCenter for Teaching and Learning

    For more information on PBL Day, contact:

    Rosemary Leary, EMCC, (623) 935-8473rosemary.leary@emcmail.maricopa.edu

    Roger Yohe, EMCC, (623) 935-8070roger.yohe@emcmail.maricopa.edu


    Gijselaers, W.H. "Connecting Problem-Based Practices with Educational Theory." InWilkerson, L. & Gijselaers, W.H. (eds.), Bringing Problem-Based Learning to HigherEducation: Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

  • 01/31/2007 11:37 AMmcli Forum: Spring 2001: Teaching and Learning (1)

    Page 4 of 4file:///Users/adrianlee/Desktop/Victoria%20University%20Consultantging%20Students%20in%20Problem-Based%20Learning.%20VU5.webarchive

    Wilkerson, L. & Gijselaers, W.H. (eds.), Bringing Problem-Based Learning to HigherEducation: Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

    Problem-Based Learning Initiative (PBLI) at Southern Illinois University School ofMedicine: www.pbli.org

    For more information on PBL, visit the mcli web site at:www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/pbl/

    http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/forum/ Spring 2001 : cover : contents : prev : next

    mcli Forum Spring 2001 : technologyMaricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (mcli)the 'net connection at MCLI is Alan LevineQuestions? Comments? Visit our feedback center last modified: 9-Apr-01 : 4:11 PMURL: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/forum/spr01/tl1.html


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