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Problem-based Learning


Problem-based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered multidisciplinary approach focused on real world applications using active learning methods. Since adult learners need to see the purpose of the learning, PBL is ideal and can support Long-term Memory, Motivation, and Problem Solving skills as adults strive to solve relevant, open-ended problems. Key components of problem-based learning include a focus on complex, real-world problems with no single solution, learners working in groups and being self-directed, and instructors serving as facilitators without having a prescribed plan or daily lesson for the group. Benefits of problem-based learning include developing lifelong learning skills, deeper learning, and a focus on core information. Adult learners can also show improvement in self-control, risk-taking, and initiative, which are all supportive of developing a lifelong Learner Mindset.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Problem-based learning is fundamentally different from Project-based learning in design, implementation, and expected outcomes. Unlike project-based learning, there is no pre-identified outcome or project for each group to create. Instead, there is a relevant real-life problem that the group investigates and collaborates around to generate a solution. Successful implementation is learner-driven, gives learners autonomy over how they will share their learning, and provokes critical thinking, Problem Solving and multiple perspectives. When planning for English language learners, it is important to maintain the active learning environment and provide strategic scaffolding to help them develop language and content knowledge. Problem-based learning also supports reading comprehension and attitude toward learning for English language learners.

Products can support problem-based learning by adding features such as collaborative, audio, video, discussion, mindmapping, and image-based tools. Virtual and web-based environments that support the search, sharing, and evaluation of information support problem-based learning. Three core elements of problem-based learning that are effectively supported by technology are collaboration, communication, and reflection. Reflection is a key component of successful implementation of problem-based learning and should be embedded throughout the process to support Metacognition and Long-term Memory.