Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material. The PBL process does not focus on problem solving with a defined solution, but it allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes. This includes knowledge acquisition, enhanced group collaboration and communication.
The PBL process was developed for medical education and has since been broadened in applications for other programs of learning. The process allows for learners to develop skills used for their future practice. It enhances critical appraisal, literature retrieval and encourages ongoing learning within a team environment.
The PBL tutorial process often involves working in small groups of learners. Each student takes on a role within the group that may be formal or informal and the role often alternates. It is focused on the student’s reflection and reasoning to construct their own learning.
The Maastricht seven-jump process involves clarifying terms, defining problem(s), brainstorming, structuring and hypothesis, learning objectives, independent study and synthesis. In short, it is identifying what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to the resolution of the problem.
The role of the tutor is to facilitate learning by supporting, guiding, and monitoring the learning process. The tutor aims to build students’ confidence when addressing problems, while also expanding their understanding. This process is based on constructivism. PBL represents a paradigm shift from traditional teaching and learning philosophy, which is more often lecture-based.
The constructs for teaching PBL are very different from traditional classroom or lecture teaching and often require more preparation time and resources to support small group learning.