Problem-based learning is an instructional strategy in which students learn the subject matter of a course and the related skills by solving real-world problems and reflecting on their experiences of solving the problem/s.
The types of problems presented to students in problem-based learning can range from simple to complex. For students new to problem-based learning, simple problems are usually preferable. Simple problems are given so that students have an opportunity to become familiar with the processes required in problem-based learning.
Simple problems are well-defined, “convergent” problems. These problems are directly stated and the presenting context usually contains only the information required to resolve the problem. Simple problems usually require a single or only a few solution steps. As students become more skilled with the processes of Problem-Based Learning and managing group collaborations, they can be presented with more complex and ill-defined problems.
Complex problems are usually ill-defined, “divergent” problems. These problems are usually embedded in authentic contextual situations and contain information both relevant and irrelevant to solving the given problem/s. Complex problems usually require several inter-linked, related steps to arrive at a solution. Complex problems developed and presented in Problem-Based Learning attempt to mirror the reality of everyday problems. In the normal course of problem-solving, experts are confronted with ill-defined problems. These problems are usually situated in contexts with an abundance of information, only some of which is relevant to solving the problem/s. One of the skills experts possess, is the ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information from among all information available in a problem situation and the ability develop a solution from the necessary information.
Link to example artifact(s)
- Hot-Headed Moles in Antarctica (University of Delaware: Chemistry/Biochemistry)
- When twins marry twins (University of Delaware: Biology)
- The Geritol Solution (University of Delaware: Biology)
- A day in the life of John Henry, a traffic cop (University of Delaware: Physics)
- Sick kids with an unusual organic aciduria (University of Delaware: Chemistry/Biochemistry)
Link to scholarly reference(s)
Gibbings, P., Lidstone, J., & Bruce, C. (2013). Students’ experience of problem-based learning in virtual space [NYP 29/10/13]. Higher Education Research and Development.
Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn?. Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266.
Hughes C., Donaldson, J. F., Kardash, C., & Hosokawa, M. (1997). Learning in a problem‐based medical curriculum: students’ conceptions. Medical Education, 31(6), 440-447.
Shipman, H. L., & Duch, B. J. (2001). Problem-based learning in large and very large classes. The Power of Problem-Based Learning: A Practical ‘‘How To’’ for Undergraduate Courses in Any Discipline, Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA, 149-163.
Valaitis, R. K., Sword, W. A., Jones, B., & Hodges, A. (2005). Problem-based learning online: perceptions of health science students. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 10(3), 231-252.