Problem-based learning is a teaching strategy that encourages students to apply their critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills to provide solutions to real-world problems. It makes students more responsible for their learning, other than the traditional teaching approach, where teachers only provide students with information about the topic or subject. Problem-based learning is also a student-centered teaching model that allows students to interact with problems and apply their learning to develop solutions.
Problem-based learning has proven to be the ideal strategy for the 21st-century educational system. Reports suggest that skills —such as critical thinking, metacognitive skills, and problem-solving— are part of the skills needed to thrive in a modern workplace. This means that educators need to adopt this strategy to prepare students accordingly.
Hence, this article will explain some strategies for implementing problem-based learning in classrooms. We will break down this teaching method into six steps to enable you to design, implement, and assess PBL in your classroom. But let’s briefly highlight some examples of classroom activities that involve problem-based learning.
Classroom activities that involve problem-based learning
- Technology: Instruct students to design an app
Students love using the newest apps and games, so get them to understand the process of creating these things. This will also encourage the use of technology in your classroom and enhance their problem-solving skills. You can divide them into small groups, give a brief explanation of what you want from each group, and allow them to engage in what they love. There are several already-made tools for developing simple apps, like the Apple developer tools. However, make sure they are familiar with whatever software tool you provide to make the process seamless.
- Agriculture: Create student farm
Here, students can learn about science, economics, agriculture, and math through planting crops. They can begin by researching the crops they want, the kind of care needed for such crops, then use a budget to determine what materials they need to grow the garden. In the long-run, they can sell proceedings from the farm to contribute to a cause or use as free will donations.
- Food and Nutrition: Discuss their favorite meal
You can prompt your class to discuss their favorite meals and ask them to prepare presentations about the recipes for their favorite meals. To make it easy, divide them into small groups and allow them to discuss extensively and choose a particular meal to focus on. As part of the presentation, let each group highlight nutritional values — carbohydrates, calories, vitamins, etc — based on the ingredients for the meal. Besides, you may need to provide go-to resources for students to find the necessary information.
Strategies for implementing problem-based learning
Below are some strategies for implementing problem-based learning.
Identify learning outcomes
The first step to implementing problem-based learning is to ascertain what you want your students to learn and do after completing a project. This will help you know whether your course or topic fits problem-based learning. Can the aim of your lesson be actualized via PBL? After determining whether your students can gain through PBL, develop formative and summative assessments to measure their learning level. You could do so via self/peer-evaluation, reflective learning, group projects, etc.
Create a scenario or problem
The next thing to do is create a problem-based learning scenario by introducing a real-world problem – one that students may encounter in their life or career. Introduce a problem/scenario that will prompt students to brainstorm. It could be related to your course content or something that affects students directly. The problem must also facilitate discussion, research and help students identity/utilize their different thinking patterns. Check out this website for examples of PBL problems and scenarios.
Introduce problem-based learning and research
If PBL is new to your students, you can first practice with an “easy problem,” and allow students to give a background knowledge of what they know about the problem. Divide students into groups, and allow them to research/discuss the topic and tackle it in their way. You could also show them where to find data needed to tackle that problem and design multiple scenarios for each group that could be used to address the problem. However, pay close attention to each group while they brainstorm.
After researching, students are likely to create products and presentations that support their research or solutions and inform their understandings. And while they present their findings —including one or more solutions— examine them to ensure that students have a clear understanding of the problem.
Conduct thorough assessment
In addition to ensuring that students have a clear understanding of the problem, conduct self-assessment and peer-assessment. This is to ensure that all groups and group members participated meaningfully. You could also encourage reflective learning and allow your students to discuss the content, what they learned, and the research process as often as possible. This should be a continuous process to enable students to get familiar with problem-based learning.
Before implementing problem-based learning in your classroom, it is advised to know the type of resources available to your students, such as books, technology, human resources, etc.
The core idea of problem-based learning is to ensure that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking. The teacher only acts as a facilitator—working with students to create questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience—while students are more responsible for their learning.