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Home Assignment DesignProblem-based Learning
Problem-based Learning

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional strategy that promotes active learning; it can be used as a framework for modules, courses, programs, or entire curricula. Students are presented with a problem, a research assignment, a scenario or a request for a design in a field where they have little or no knowledge. What steps do they need to take to complete the assigned?

Following the presentation of the problem students are guided through eight tasks: exploring the problem, identifying what they already know, identifying what they do NOT know, creating a study or work plan, proceeding with the necessary work, sharing group learning, applying that learning to the problem, and reflecting on the process.

  • Problem-Based Learning by Don Woods, who was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.
  • Problem Based Learning from the University of Delaware has example PBL courses and syllabi available for review and ideas.
  • Links to problem-based learning websites for higher education from University of Akron.
  • Problem-based learning in biology. This site includes step-by-step guidelines for both the instructor and the student that are helpful for all disciplines (with examples from biology).

References and Further Readings

Blaylock, B. K., & Kopf, J. M. (2009). Problem-based learning in quantitative classes. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 13(1). Retrieved September 10, 2009, from

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning. Editors: M. M. Grant and K. Glazewki. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University. Open access.