Characteristics of Problem Based Learning

Topics: Problem solving, Educational psychology, Education Pages: 5 (1306 words) Published: September 4, 2013
The aim of this section is to deliberate the characteristics of Problem Based Learning (PBL) from various literature. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an emerging teaching approach which has taken its prominence in tertiary education in recent years. PBL is an instructional strategy in which learner-centered method is adopted and students learn by working on real life problems and activities, where teacher acts as a facilitator (Barrows,H & Tamblyn, R.M, 1980). It is a style of learning in which the problems act as the driving force for student directed learning(Boud & Feletti, 1997). All learning of new knowledge is done within the context of the problems. In PBL the problems are encountered before all the relevant knowledge has been acquired and solving problems results in the acquisition of knowledge and problem-solving skills.

One of the main objectives of PBL is to help students to develop self-learning skills and to be able to learn on their own for rest of their lives. Table 1 illustrate the essential of PBL by Walton & Matthews,1989.(Walton & Matthews, 1989)

Problems | The key unit for structuring relevant learning| Resources| Information for self-learning|
Objectives| Planned by teachers, but with student input|
Behaviour| Students‟ behaviour progressively mirrors that of the real job”| Learning| Active and student-directed, peer- and tutor-monitored| Examples| Establish rules and lead to higher concepts|

Motivation| The excitement of self-discovery|
Self-directed learning and self-assessment| Developing learning habit| Table 1: ‘PROBLEMS’: Essentials of PBL (Walton & Matthews, 1989).

Barrows (1996) identified six original characteristics for the PBL model: (a) learning is student-centered,
(b) learning occurs in small student groups,
(c) teachers are facilitators,
(d) problems form the original focus and stimulus for learning, (e) problems are vehicles for the development of problem solving skills, and (f) new information is acquired through self-directed learning.

Tseng,2008 described in her thesis that PBL Characterisitics involves elements such as nature, strategy, strengths/values, propositions and 8 principles.

1) Nature of PBL

* Problems: ill-structured/ill-defined problems or authentic problems * Context: Rich context is needed
* Knowledge: is situated,and is intertwined with problem solving * Inquiry freely and dependent on metacognition; a kind of cognitive apprenticeship * The approaches used are complex, and may incorporate with different scenarios or situations * Can be compatible with collaborative learning (see strategy) * Teachers serve as facilitators, teachers provide guidelines only * Encouraging discussion, small group interaction associated with problems * Modeling the metacognition thinking; doing nothing with knowledge base

2) Strategy of PBL
* Self-developed learning/ self-directed learning/self-generated learning * Self-monitoring/self-regulation
* Collaborative learning : 1) during doing projects,students may work in group to write papers, construct models, or produce some other products 2) collaborative group can range in size from two to twelve according to literature on collaborative learning;no magic number that a professor can assign when determining how many students should be in a group 3) Strengths/Values of PBL

* Allow inquiry or questioning freely /learning is student-centred * Inquiry is the core of metacognition thinking
* What one has learned is transferable and related to the development of metacognition (not just memorize the information from textbooks) 4) Propositions and 8 principles
* Propositions #1 : Understanding comes from participant’s interaction with he environment * Propositions #2 : Cognitive conflict and puzzlement is the stimulus for learning and determines the organization and nature of what is learned....

References: Boud, D. J., & Feletti, G. (Eds.). (1997). The challenge of problem-based learning (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page.
Ho, W. (2008). An Exploration of Peer Collaboration and Group Problem Solving Process in a College Problem-based Learning Classroom. ProQuest. Retrieved from,+1996):&ots=ZiAc2CbUH1&sig=hby6epAUv0Tr7NphyMQBUXxWKG0
Walton, H. J., & Matthews, M. B. (1989). Essentials of problem-based learning. Medical education, 23(6), 542–558.
Wilkerson, L., & Gijselaers, W. H. (1996). Bringing problem-based learning to higher education: Theory and practice. Jossey-Bass San Francisco. Retrieved from
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