Problem-Based Learning or How To Face The Real World
A knowledge society is a society of continuous learning. Gone are when a Master’s class contained enough knowledge to be applied for decades. Concepts, tools, and technologies advance at a speed never seen before, and the teaching-learning process must adapt to this context and change. It is not just about learning but about knowing how to keep learning throughout your personal and professional life.
In this broad vision of training and education, problem-based learning ( ABP, or PBL ) plays a fundamental role. It is a methodology that emerged in the 1960s in North America and is increasingly common at all educational levels, from the earliest ages to high school and university degrees, as well as in continuing and specialized training for professionals.
What is problem-based learning?
Problem-based learning is an active teaching-learning methodology in which students address a problem and propose a solution. It starts from the approach of a specific problem, and it is the students themselves who must detect the needs for this specific case. Then they search for the appropriate information to finally be able to solve it. The PBL method, therefore, flees from memorizing abstract concepts and bets on the ability to analyze and understand the meaning of what is investigated, discovered, and applied.
Problem-based learning thus focuses on the student and not on the content itself: the most important thing is that they can acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make it easier for them to face real-life situations and their professional activity.
Objectives and benefits of problem-based learning
The objective of PBL is for the student to learn and know how to manage the knowledge they already have, recognize what they lack and look for it to catch up, select what is most relevant to a specific context and reach an adequate level of understanding to be able to adapt it. To all kinds of situations or circumstances.
The student, therefore, plays a much more active role than the one he plays in other more traditional teaching methods. With this, his involvement and motivation are multiplied, and much more autonomous, and responsible learning is promoted.
This type of methodology encourages students to develop new skills :
- Development of critical and practical thinking
- Analysis and problem solving
- Teamwork and productivity
- Communication skills
- Time management
Build your learning based on theories and problems of contemporary organizations.
The origins of problem-based learning
Problem-based learning was born in 1965 and led by John Evans, dean of the McMaster University School of Medicine in Canada. A few years later, it spread to various North American and European universities. Evans wanted his students to cover the various aspects that influence health and disease (biology, environment, lifestyle, etc.).
For this, he changed the large Masterclasses for small groups of students who investigated just from fundamental assumptions. It went from unidirectional teaching, in which the students listened to a teacher’s explanation, to a situation in which they had to contribute their critical reasoning, recognize their knowledge gaps, and try to solve them (individually or with the help of the rest of their classmates). ) and learn to work as a team.
Advantages of PBL in the professional environment
One of the main advantages of PBL in continuous training throughout professional life is its similarity to real tasks. Problem-based learning enhances individual, and group resolution and decision-making strategies, strengthens the communication and argumentation skills of the participants, and creates awareness of the learning process itself and the improvement achieved.
Small PBL Obstacles
There is no doubt that problem-based learning far outperforms other training methods, but there are some hurdles to overcome for it to be successful. From the outset, trainees and students must assume new roles as guides and researchers. For those raised in another type of teaching, it is not always easy to assume that they will not be provided with all the information from the outset but will have to look for it on their own. Another difference that must be considered is the time needed to invest in preparing the problem.
On the part of the instructor, the organization, search for information, and drawing of conclusions on the part of the students and the final evaluation, which does not focus only on the answer provided but on the process that has been followed to obtain it.
Similar learning methods
The problem-based learning approach has several points in common with other methodologies that also focus on student discovery and that can complement each other.
One of them is the case study, very similar to PBL with the particularity that the student learns to always work on real cases and not on fictitious assumptions. It began to be used especially in law schools in the United States and is a common method in this discipline. On the other hand, project-based learning is based on a specific interest of the group of students, and it is they who define how to work collaboratively and what objectives they want to achieve. It is the most appropriate method to promote teamwork.
Treasure hunting also enhances teamwork, can be adapted to all teaching levels and requires the internet to collect information. It is part of a series of questions accompanied by links where they can search for the data they need and help enhance their skills in handling information technology. Finally, WebQuest also requires online research to solve a problem or hypothesis.