Problem-based Learning

This course will introduce you to problem-based learning.

History of PBL

Dr. Howard Barrows noticed two things about medical students. First, 3rd year students had forgotten much of what they learned in the first two years of medical school where the emphasis is on memorization of facts and information.

Howard Barrows

Second, many students were bored or overwhelmed in these first two years. Many dropped out during this time. Those that endured became excited and engaged in the third year when they began interacting with patients and real-world medical problems.

So, Dr. Barrows developed problem-based learning (PBL) which places first year students into groups where they work collaboratively to solve real-world problems. These problems are in the form of patient symptoms.

These students use their current knowledge as well as research new knowledge in pursuit of solving this problem. This method not only gives them context for learning new facts and information, but also problem-solving skills relevant to their field.

What is the major difference between traditional medical school programs and a PBL medical school program?

  • The pinatas are fuller in PBL programs.
  • Tuition is higher in traditional programs.
  • Students work on real-world problems their first year in traditional programs.
  • Students work on real-world problems their first year in PBL programs.

Briefly explain the two observations that led Howard Barrows to develop PBL.

How PBL works

PBL is an iterative process. The original form had three boxes on a whiteboard. The first box was what they knew, the facts. The second box was the group's hypotheses of the problem. The third box was what they didn't know, their knowledge deficits.

This image illustrates the basic steps of PBL.

PBL has been used from kindergarten to higher education and in all disciplines, sometimes with variations. These videos show some examples of PBL in the classroom. One is from a first grade class and the other is a from a high school class.

You may ask, what role does the teacher play in PBL? The teacher's role changes from the source of information to one of tutor, assisting the group as they explore the problem.

The assistance can take many forms. It can be questions to help guide the group, keep them from getting off track, or spur thinking in new, pertinent areas. It can be assistance in developing creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Fill in the blank.

PBL is an process.

What are elements of the PBL process?

  • Identify knowledge deficits.
  • Paint your bathroom.
  • Present researched information to the group.
  • Create assessments for members of your group.
  • Develop problem-solving skills.

What is the role of the teacher in PBL?

  • The role of the teacher in PBL is to tutor and guide the group.
  • The role of the teacher in PBL is be the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom.