PROBLEM BASED LEARNING (PBL)
WHAT IS PROBLEM BASED LEARNING?
Traditionally, students learn by listening to lectures and reading, and are assessed on their ability to recall and communicate what they have learned. With problem-based learning, students are assessed on their ability to go through a problem solving process.
Research shows that PBL gives the learner greater long-term benefits than traditional learning, and many successful and progressive universities around the world use it in their courses. Graduates of PBL courses advance faster and further in their careers.
WHAT IS INVOLVED?
- Other benefits of PBL:
- Develops critical and creative thinking;
- Creates effective problem-solvers;
- Increases motivation;
- Encourages lateral thinking;
- Improves communication and networking skills;
- Is based on real-life situations.
Every PBL project is carefully designed by experts to expose you to the information and skills that we want you to learn. When assigned a project, you are given:
- A statement of the problem (eg. diseased animal; failing business; anorexia case study);
- Questions to consider when solving the problem;
- A framework for the time and effort you should spend on the project;
- Support from the school.
The problems that you will solve in your course will relate to what you are learning. They are problems that you might encounter when working that field, adapted to your level of study.
STAGES IN A PBL PROJECT
There are commonly three main stages in working through a PBL project:
1. Define the Problem
The first step is to identify the nature and scope of a problem and define it in a statement. This statement is known as a hypothesis, a tentative statement that proposes an explanation for observed data or information that still needs to be tested. There are a number of ways in which a hypothesis can be written. Examples include:
• Salinity in soils may affect plant growth.
• If lung cancer is related to smoking then smokers will have a higher incidence of lung cancer.
• If I spend more money on advertising, my business will make a larger profit.
2. Deal with Relevant Information
You need to access, evaluate and select the information that is most relevant and helpful to you in solving your problem. You then need to utilise this information in answering your problem.
• You can access information via internet searches, online libraries or traditional textbooks and journals. You should be looking for information that will hep you to prove or disprove your hypothesis, including any past research and studies.
• You need to evaluate the information that you have found, consider the credibility and accuracy of the information, its relevance to your problem, including how recent the information is and whether the information is biased in any way.
• You will then need to utilise the information you have gained by looking for results, information and facts that you can use to help you answer your problem.
After looking over the information you have gathered, you may decide to keep your hypothesis as it is or you may decide to modify your original hypothesis in order to make your research focus narrower, or to make your hypothesis more specific, so that it is easier to prove/disprove. For example, after doing some research on the original hypothesis that ‘salinity in soils affects plant growth’, you may decide that your research has indicated that high levels of salinity negatively affect plant growth, so you can thus change your hypothesis to reflect this, i.e. ‘high salinity levels in soils negatively affects plant growth’.
3. Develop a Solution
You need to construct and present a solution. This will require decision-making, followed by developing detail within the decision and then communicating the solution, for example, by putting together a paper, report, or multi media presentation.
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