What is it?
Problem-based learning (PBL), often known as inquiry-based learning, is an educational practice which is increasing in popularity. Its use has been primarily at the university level, but increasingly, high schools, middle schools, and even primary schools are incorporating its methods into their pedagogy. Educators believe that PBL leads to improved learning; that lessons learned through inquiry are more likely than those learned by other methods to be remembered, as they are learned on a high cognitive level, and are, therefore, more likely to result in abilities higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
PBL is a form of cognitive learning, in which the learner constructs meaning based on experiences orchestrated or facilitated by the teacher. A lesson begins with a question or problem, provided and explained by the teacher. Students, almost always in cooperative groups, decide on a strategy for resolution of the problem. Depending on the level of the students, the teacher may provide varying levels of support for the student groups. At the university level, PBL is very student-driven, but at elementary level, PBL lessons involve a relatively high level of teacher guidance. PBL lessons may take a short time, a class period, a week, a semester, or several semesters, and will usually end with a culminating activity or a reflection to provide closure for the learning.
Problem-based or Project-based Learning?
The acronym PBL may stand for either problem-based learning or project-based learning. The similarities between the two instructional methods do not end at the initials, though. Both are cognitive learning methods in which students discover knowledge through solving a problem and teachers function as guides to learning. Use of rubrics, research, and imagination are factors common to both. The degree of student involvement is similar for the two PBL’s. The biggest differences between project-based and problem-based learning are in the degree of autonomy and in the investment of time for each lesson.
Project-based learning involves projects which span a week or more and often involve only minimally-conceived project ideas. It requires that the learners be motivated, skilled at research methods, and able to manage their time. Project-based learning is typically used at the university level and occasionally in high schools. These long-term projects may be employed in middle school, but with extensive teacher support.
Problem-based lessons, on the other hand, allow for a bit more teacher direction and typically last only one or two class periods. With problem-based learning, the final product may be the answer to a single math problem (usually with a detailed explanation), a poster, a presentation, or any number of objects. The important result is that by solving the given problem, students learn something new or discover a new way to use knowledge they already had.
Engagement--Watch the video
Math teacher uses common mistakes to create problems--Watch the video
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