Use Problem-Based Learning to Develop Students’ Course Related Skills

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Problem-Based learning

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. In Problem-Based Learning, students may be given a specific course-related problem to solve or they may be provided with a selection of related problems from which they can choose.

The problem/s presented to students require them to utilize the subject matter of the course and to utilize and practice cognitive, psycho-motor and affective skills associated with course objectives. Problem-Based Learning also usually involves small group collaboration among students.

Instructor role

In Problem-Based Learning, the instructor usually designs problem scenarios before the course begins. During the course, the instructor may act as a helpful guide and group facilitator as students begin to engage with the problem/s. However, an important part of Problem-Based Learning instructional strategies is that students are encouraged to take the initiative in solving given problems, so instructor guidance is gradually withdrawn.
Instructors using Problem-Based Learning instructional strategies, sometimes encourage students to document their problems-solving strategies and provide a rationale for selected strategies. This process of documenting and rationalizing selected problem-solving strategies activates students’ meta-cognition as they reflect on the problem-solving choices they make.

Link to example artifact(s)

A video on Problem-Based Learning (McMaster University)

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Hughes Caplow, J. A., Donaldson, J. F., Kardash, C., & Hosokawa, M. (1997). Learning in a problem‐based medical curriculum: students’ conceptions. Medical Education, 31(6), 440-447.

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.

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.

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.


Daniel-Gittens, K-A., Thompson, K., Chen, B. & Carter, P. (2015). Use problem-based learning to develop students’ course related skills. In B. Chen & K. Thompson (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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