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Problem-Based Learning: Ideas, Activities & Projects

Instructor: Melissa Oden

Dr. Oden earned a master's degree in Social Work, a master's degreee in Public Health, and a Doctorate in Health Education.

In this lesson, you will learn about Problem-Based Learning (PBL), why you should use PBL, and some ideas about how to implement ideas and activities in a PBL-based setting.

Problem-Based Learning

As a teacher or an instructor, have you ever completed a lesson plan and thought, 'Surely there is something more exciting I can do with this lesson to help my students learn!' Well, you're right. There is a more exciting way to help your students learn. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching tool that puts the student in the driver's seat of learning. It is student-directed as opposed to teacher-directed. It allows the student (or group of students) to explore and make deeper inquiries into the topic that the teacher or instructor has presented to them. Let's take a look at some reasons for using PBL in the classroom, as well as some examples for different subjects.

Using PBL

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a great tool to use to help students delve deeper into the topic that you are teaching them. It also allows the student to connect the real world to the concept that you want them to learn. When the student is confronted with a real problem to solve (or try to solve), it also helps develop critical thinking skills. It also creates a new level of student motivation because the student 'owns' the problem that is presented to them, and finding the solution to the problem becomes important to them. Additionally, it might be helpful to remember that PBL doesn't necessarily mean that the problem has to be solved. Sometimes PBL is used to help the students think differently about a problem or to engage higher ordered thinking skills.

The beauty of PBL is that it is applicable to almost any discipline or subject. PBL can be used to reinforce ideas presented in a lecture or lesson, or it can be used as the lesson itself! PBL can occur in one class period, or it can occur over the entirety of a semester or school year. The key to making PBL work is to create an activity or group of activities that allow the student to engage in the activities with minimal intervention from you. The teacher or instructor is there to guide and support, but the student is in control of the activity.

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PBL Ideas & Activities

The first thing to do when deciding to use PBL is to determine the end goal. What concept or topic do your students need to learn, and how can PBL help them do that? Once you determine your end goal, then you can begin designing activities to help your students meet that goal.

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