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Understanding Problem-Based Learning

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How can I get my students to think? Asked by Barbara Duch This is a question asked by many faculty, regardless of their disciplines. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to “learn to learn,” working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students’ curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically, creatively, and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources.

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Why PBL? Research shows that PBL gives the learner greater long-term benefits than traditional learning. Benefits of PBL: a.Develops critical and creative thought b.Creates effective problem-solvers c.Increases motivation d.Encourages lateral thinking e.Improves communication and networking skills

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Problem-Based Learning In problem-based learning, students work with classmates to solve complex and authentic problems that help develop content knowledge as well as problem-solving, reasoning, communication, and self-assessment skills.

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Problem-Based Learning PBL is a pathway to better learning, helping students to learn how to learn. This method challenges students to develop the ability to think critically, creatively, analytically, and find and use appropriate learning resources.

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Con’t PBL is a learner-centred education method. Learners are progressively given more and more responsibility for their own education and become increasingly independent of the teacher for their education.

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Con’t PBL is based on real world problems. Learning is based on the messy, complex problems encountered in the real world as a stimulus for learning and for integrating and organizing information in ways that will ensure its recall and application to future problems.

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Con’t PBL is a motivating way to learn. Learners are involved in active learning, working with real problems and what they have to learn in their study is seen as important and relevant to their own lives.

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PBL Rational PBL follows the research of Barrows and Tamblyn (1980) and was first implemented in medical education in McMaster University in the 1960’s. The rational: it was more effective to teach medical students through problem-solving than through traditional methods

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Having started in Canada, PBL has spread across the globe and across disciplines. Problem-based learning is part of the shift from the teaching paradigm to the learning paradigm (Barr and Tagg, 1995). The focus is on what the students are learning rather what the teacher is teaching.

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Problem-based Learning Essentials 1.Students have the responsibility for their own learning (Autonomous). 2.The problem simulations used in problem- based learning must be ill-structured and allow for free inquiry. 3.Learning should be integrated from a wide range of disciplines or subjects (Interdisciplinary).

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Con’t 4.Collaboration is essential. 5.What students learn during their self- directed learning must be applied back to the problem with reanalysis and resolution. 6.A closing analysis of what has been learned from work with the problem and a discussion of what concepts and principles have been learned is essential.

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Con’t 7.Self and peer assessment should be carried out at the completion of the problem. 8.The activities carried out in the problem- based learning must be those valued in the real world. PBL requires that students are active learners, responsible for their own learning, and have adequate time for self-directed learning.

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Operational Procedures 1.First, students are presented with a problem. 2.Students brainstorm the problem independently of other group members (22 minutes). 3.Students discuss the problem in a small group PBL tutorial. They clarify the facts of the case. They define what the problem is. They brainstorm ideas based on the prior knowledge. They identify what they need to learn to work on the problem, what they do not know (learning issues). They reason through the problem. They specify an action plan for working on the problem.

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Con’t 4. Students engage in independent study on their learning issues outside the tutorial. This can include the library, databases, the web, resource people, and observations. 5. They come back to the PBL tutorial sharing information, peer teaching, and working together on the problem.

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Con’t 6.They present their solution to the product. A media product is required (example: poster board). 7.They review what they have learned from working on the problem. All who participated in the process engage in self and peer review of the PBL process and reflections on each person’s contribution to that process.

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Seven Jump Approach 1. Clarify unknown terms and concepts. 2.Define the problem. 3.Analyse the problem. 4.Criticize the explanations proposed and try to produce a coherent description of the process. 5.Formulate learning issues. 6.Fill in the gaps in your knowledge though self- study. 7.Share your findings with your group and integrate the knowledge acquired.

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