Problem Based Learning Resources

Problem Based Learning Resources

PaddleProblem based learning (PBL) is a student focused pedagogy where students work in groups to solve real world problems with minimal structure and guidance. The teacher’s role becomes one of a facilitator that guides the process through asking questions, providing relevant resources, and engaging in classroom discussions.

Problem based learning is used extensively throughout the K-12 and post secondary education systems. It was first used during the 1960’s to teach undergraduate health science students. PBL’s main characteristics include:

  • Challenging, open-ended, real world problems
  • Students working in groups
  • Minimal structure to the problems that must be solved
  • Teachers become facilitators

 PBL resources for K-12 and postsecondary educators and institutions.


Sites Great for Learning about PBL:

  • University of Delaware - This site provides PBL educational materials, lessons, articles and applications of problem based learning as it applies to undergraduate education.
  • PBL Study Guides and Strategies This web site provides an overview of problem based learning and a step-by-step guide on how to create PBL lesson plans. This resource can be used at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.
  • Introduction to Problem Based Learning This website is managed by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. The site gives a sound description of PBL and what components must be incorporated to make a learning activity PBL. The site provides examples of general PBL as well as medical PBL.
  • Problem Based Learning – University of Washington This PDF newsletter provides an overview of PBL and discusses why PBL should be used in the classroom, its benefits, and how it can be implemented. The newsletter also has a great list of annotated resources for further research and investigation.

Problem Based Learning – Methodology and Tools:

  • Student Centered Model for PBL This article recounts a professor’s experience implementing PBL into her Mammalian Physiology class. Great first-hand account of how to implement PBL into collegiate level courses.
  • Creating the “Problem in Problem Based Learning This newsletter from the Center for Teaching Effectiveness explains how to overcome the problem many instructors and teachers face in coming up with adequate problems that can be used in the classroom. Many educators suffer from the equivalent of writer’s block when it comes to the creation of a good PBL project. The article focuses on collegiate level curriculum.
  • PBL Evaluation This site from the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine provides excellent evaluation tools. Instruments can be used as peer evaluations, self-evaluation, instructor/student evaluation, and student evaluation of the PBL process.
  • Problem Based Learning Rubric This rubric describes the different levels of learning that occur in response to a problem based learning directive. The rubric takes into account the student’s level of knowledge on the topic and how accurately the problem was solved.
  • Students Teaching Students – The Power of Problem Based Learning in Physics Education This newsletter provides a first-hand account of how one physics teacher implemented PBL into an undergraduate physics class and saw how the students learned for themselves the process of conducting scientific research and problem solving.
  • How to Implement PBL into Large Classrooms and Learning LabsThis is an excellent article and resource site from McMaster University. It provides an excellent summation of PBL and how it can be incorporated into large classroom settings. The site also has several PBL links and resources that can be accessed for free.
  • Group Problem Solving This newsletter comes from the University of Washington’s Center for Instructional Development and Research. It discusses the positive impact group learning has on student performance, retention, and depth-of understanding. The article also defines how group problem solving can be best implemented to maximize teaching and learning.
  • Problems – The Key to Effective PBL Excellent resource for science and biology teachers. This site discusses how important having a quality “problem” is critical to the entire problem based learning process. The article discusses what makes a quality problem and how you can find sample problems for courses. It gives examples for physics and biology courses at three different levels.

Issues in Problem Based Learning:

  • PBL in Large Classes This article describes how one educator successfully implemented problem based learning in a large class and how it was done. The teacher describes how student rapport and community was built and how students became active creators rather than passive recipients of knowledge and facts.
  • Problem Based Learning: Passing Fancy or Here to Stay This site describes how PBL is becoming more widespread throughout the health science teaching community. It details how it was once a pedagogy used by few but is now mainstream. The article discusses whether PBL within the health sciences is here to stay or a passing fad.
  • The Efficacy of Problem Based Learning This extensive article describes the advantages and issues surrounding problem based learning in the field of health science education. The article compares PBL to traditional methods of teaching and how it can improve retention, critical understanding, self-directed learning, and relevance to practice. Potential issues such as cost are also discussed.
  • PBL in Undergraduate Medical Education This PDF document does an in-depth analysis of PBL and how it compares to traditional methods of teaching undergraduate medical students. The article details how a mixture of PBL and conventional teaching may be the most effective means to teaching undergraduate medical students.
  • PBL – Navigating the Learning Curve Instructors and students new to PBL often have a very hard time adjusting to the new way of teaching and learning. Instructors can become awkward while students can become frustrated and angry. This article details how instructors can transition to PBL without all of the setbacks by understanding how the process works.
  • Skills Needed to Enhance Problem Based Learning This article details how the instructor must possess excellent interpersonal skills in order to enhance the problem based learning environment. Instructors who can facilitate and dialogue with students in a comfortable yet authoritative way often see the best results. Instructors have to become comfortable with taking on the role of a facilitator rather than a lecturer.