Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

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Term2.png Problem-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning is a student-centered pedagogy in which students are challenged to learn through solving complex and realistic problems. Students construct their knowledge in a social context and are encouraged to organize and direct their learning process. The method claims to increase student motivation, activate prior knowledge, inspire creative thinking, facilitate the application of knowledge, and develop critical, collaborative, analytic, reasoning, problem-solving, self-monitoring, independent learning, decision-making, networking and communication skills. [1] See also: Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Critical Incident-Based Learning, Design-Based Learning,Experiential Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, Scenario-Based Learning, Social Constructivism,

Toolkit.png Guidelines for creating a PBL course

Role of the instructor

  • Facilitator-mentor, guide, coach and not a source of solutions;
  • Resource guide;
  • Subject matter expert;
  • Create strong problems;
  • Learn with students- be open to learning;
  • Encourage student participation;
  • Give students immediate and appropriate feedback.

Role of the students

  • Take responsibility for their own learning by identifying their learning issues and needs;
  • Work in teams;
  • Resolve the problem;
  • Schedule their own activities, decide how to allocate the time;
  • Intuitively take up different roles (e.g. project leader, facilitators, note taker, team member).

Tips for creating strong problems

  1. The main characteristics of the best problems are:
    • Unorganized;
    • Unsynthesized;
    • Open-ended;
    • Interdisciplinary;
    • Task oriented,
    • Focus on current events, student lives, actual occurrences;
    • The content builds on the previous knowledge of the students;
  2. The problems should be created with the following aspects in mind:
    • Introduction (catch the attention, challenge and motivate);
    • Availability of resources;
    • Content (appropriate for the student group);
    • Learning objectives (by solving the problems, students should accomplish their learning objectives);
    • Expected outcome(s);
    • Guiding questions (improvisation is key but be prepared with a set of guiding questions);
    • Assessment tasks;
    • Reasonable time frame.

Principles for assessment

  • The facilitator helps students monitor themselves and their progress;
  • Students and facilitator together establish criteria for learning and quality work;
  • Follow the concept of “assessment as learning” (focuses on what learners achieve and not what facilitators teach);
  • Assessment should be integral to learning;
  • Use a variety of ways to assess (demonstrations, performances, practical examinations, self assessment, peer assessment, etc.).

Step by Step

Phases of the Problem Solving Process.JPG

Job Aid

Pdf.png Guidelines for Creating a PBL Course

Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below additional information and resources.
Link Content
PBL Rubric Example rubric for grading problem based learning assignments.
Collaboration Rubric 1 Collaboration rubric for e-learning.
Collaboration Rubric 2 Collaboration rubric for self- and peer assessment.
Resource List An extensive list of articles outlining application of PBL in multiple disciplines
PBL for E-learning A brief gudie to problem based learning for synchronous e-learning.
PBL Online - A Case Study Problem-Based Learning in an e-Learning Environment: A Case Study at Griffith University School of Medicine.
E-learning and PBL Report E-Learning Tools and Problem Based Learning Seminar Report.
PBL Presentation Part 1 (Video, 6 mins) Interesting video presentation giving an overview of and explaining the main concepts of Problem-Based Learning.
PBL Presentation Part 2 (Video, 7 mins) The second part of the interesting video presentation detailing problem solving strategies, illustrated with examples.
PBL Presentation Part 3 (Video, 5 mins) The final part of the interesting video presentation introducing pedagogical strategies using problem solving techniques.
Rubistar Free online rubric creating application.


  1. Rapid Instructional Design, Learning ID Fast and Right. George M. Piskurich, 2006, (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011), (29 July 2011)