Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning

Thought I would repost this great article by Christopher Pappas on Problem Based Learning. Leave any comments as you see fit 🙂

Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based Learning (PBL) was introduced by Howard Burrows, an American physician and medical educator, in the late ’60s within the framework of the medical program at McMaster University in Canada.

The Quintessential of Problem-Based Learning

The philosophy behind Problem-Based Learning is that knowledge and skills are acquired through a progressive sequence of contextual problems, together with learning materials and the support of the instructor. Its core lies in collaboration, as well as in personal reflection, as one of its main objectives is to foster independent and lifelong learners, where, however, teamwork substantially affects the quality of the work generated.

As a form of active learning, Problem-Based Learning encourages knowledge construction and integrates school learning with real life dynamics, where learners learn how to develop flexible knowledge, and effective problem-solving skills, acquire intrinsic motivation, exchange ideas and collaborate. Through collaboration, learners are able to identify what they already know, what they need to know, as well as the way and the source of information they need, to successfully reach to the solution of the problem. Instructors facilitate learning, by supporting, guiding and monitoring their learners’ progress, building their confidence, encouraging them to actively participate and stretching their comprehension. This method gives learners the opportunity to master their problem-solving, thinking, teamwork, communication, time management, research and computing skills.

The 5 Key Techniques Of Problem-Based Learning

The five key techniques that are used in problem-based learning are the following:

  1. Problems serve as a guide that motivates learners and grabs their full attention.
  2. Problems take the form of a test, giving the opportunity to the instructor to determine if the learners fully understand the concept.
  3. Problems are just examples that illustrate the concepts that are being taught.
  4. Problems are used by instructors to examine the process, which means that the problem-based process becomes the lesson itself.
  5. Problems serve are a stimulus for activity, which means that they are utilized as a way to develop the skills required to solve them.

The Benefits Of Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning constitutes a method with a wide range of benefits. Some of them are:

  • Learners have the opportunity to fully examine a problem and use their own personal experiences to find the solution.
  • Problem-based learning encourages teamwork, thus improving the communication skills of the learners.
  • Learners learn how to develop their people skills, but also to effectively defend their position.
  • Learners can discover on their own what they need to know, something that improves their self-directed learning skills.
The 4 Key Principles of a Problem-Based Curriculum
  1. Through active learning
    Learners can control their own learning, as well as submit and answer their own questions.
  2. Through integrated learning
    Knowledge, understanding and skills go hand in hand, while classroom/book knowledge is linked to the real world, and the problem is the focus.
  3. Through cumulative learning
    Knowledge is acquired gradually, and topics are revisited in progressively greater depth. Over time, problems become more difficult, and the nature of the challenge more complex.
  4. Through learning for understanding
    The process is the lesson itself and is more important than the facts delivered. Personal reflection is mandatory, knowledge is put to the test and feedback is essential.

Become part of the Elearn team! They will be posting a new Instructional Design Model every week! at the link here > Instructional Design Models and Theories.

Here are some more useful links 🙂



Instructional Design Models and Theories: Problem-Based Learning: Retrieved on 22 October, 2014 at


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