Problem-Based Learning


In problem-based learning (PBL), students work together in small groups to solve real-world, application-type problems related to the course material. PBL enhances students’ problem-solving, reasoning, communication, and self-assessment skills. This student-centered, active learning pedagogy transforms the instructor from disseminator of information to facilitator of information. In general, PBL is thought to focus more on depth versus breadth of course content.

Practical Applications

  1. ​Facilitate a brainstorming session or two with the class about issues that are integral to the course. Another option is for the instructor to create a list and then ask students for input and suggestions.
  2. The instructor then creates “ill-structured problems.” (Visit​​ page 2, for specific recommendations for the development of ill-structured problems.)
  3. Students work in groups of three to eight to solve the problems (instructors can either present the problem to the students before any formal instruction on the topic or can first deliver mini-lectures that provide a context for the problem.
  4. Students work with their group members on solving the problem both in and outside of class (one problem may take from two to six weeks to solve).
  5. After completing the problem solving phase, students may be asked to write a report and share it with the rest of the class.

Example Problems

Recommended Resources

Related Evaluation and Assessment Resources

Posted by: Dina Battaglia​

Original Posting Date: 10/27/14​