Problem-Based Learning Method Definition

Introduction

In the current society dominated by innovations as a result of massive development of technology, problem-based learning approach has become one of the most popular instructional methods due to its effectiveness. The core effectiveness of the problem-based learning technique is the tendency of learners to work collectively to solve various problems (Chapman, 2002). Since this learning method involves the acquiring and gaining of new ideas, values, behaviors and skills through analyzing or synthesizing different forms of information in the environment, it equips students with real-life problem solving techniques. Students’ learning groups which employ structured problem learning processes and procedures and controlled by regulated team behavior have been observed to show high improvements in critical thinking and efficient interpersonal skills in their learning. In this paper I present an in-depth analysis of the Problem-based Learning approach to promote students’ learning, through my experience with peer learning experience.

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As it has been revealed, Problem-Based Learning is one of the most effective learning approaches which entirely involve the engagement of learners in investigating on a certain problem to establish its solutions. Being a multi-dimensional approach, this particular learning method has been very significant among learners in the sense that, there is no specific correct answer for any problem. According to Heycox & Bolzan, (1999), problem-based learning approach exposes learners to a particular problem, requiring them to analyze it both deductively and inductively to establish its relationship with the other phenomena. Since the questions are open ended for learners to establish their answers through investigations and researches, problem-based learning strategy has been revealed to facilitate creativity among learners. It is important to note that, Problem-Based Learning approach does not streamline learners on specific answers but leaves the questions open for the learners to come up with the answers with the appropriate supportive materials or literature. In this regard therefore, Problem learning approach involves either inductive or deductive research on the problem identified in order to establish the solutions, where there should always be supportive arguments (Hendrix et al, 2002).

With reference to my experience as a team leader using problem-based learning, I have realized how efficient and effective this learning approach is to the contemporary learners. Since the current generation is technologically oriented, I have been exposing my learners to various experiments which they would investigate empirically as well as through the use of the internet. Since in Problem-based learning approach individuals are compelled by challenging but open-ended problems to investigate on through analyzing or synthesizing their interrelationships with other phenomena, my approach seemed quite effective in exposing the learners to a wider base of knowledge (Huey 2001). Through deductive or inductive reasoning, my learners were always capable of establishing the relationship between or among various phenomena in order to devise and come up with appropriate information concerning the problem being investigated (Hays & Vincent, 2004). By so doing, the learning among my learners was always highly successful in the way all the students were very much interested in practical knowledge.

It has also come to my recognition that, learners are motivated and encouraged in various ways as they go on with their investigation on the problem at hand. According to Hallinger et al (2007), motivational levels vary among individuals depending on the interest towards the subject under investigation. Since the motivation level among the individuals determines the outcome of the learning on a particular topic, I have always been trying to devise motivational strategies to encourage my fellow learners in their various learning processes using problem-based learning approach. This has been always achieved through giving learners a research topic about the most recent social phenomena which they are interested in, as well as hinting them about the research topic. As I have come to realize, highly motivated learners would always get deeper into the problem to know much about it. As a result the learning process has always been successful and efficient, since learners have been getting deeply engrossed in the research topic due to their high interest in the topic given (Savery & Duffy, 1995).

Essentially, the orientation of learners in learning real life situations among the learners has usually been very motivating among them, as it initiates innate interest to understand their environment better. In this regard, I have been using real life scenarios or problems to expose my peer group learners to real world and practical application of the theoretical knowledge gained in classroom. Considering that these learners are being prepared for the societal chores and activities, their exposure to real-learning situations on their own facilitates efficiency and accuracy in their future careers. For instance, the use of peer-learning groups has helped my learners to develop good interpersonal competencies by providing them with team-work skills (Gulsecen & Kubat, 2006). More so, group learning based on problem-based approach has facilitated the building of shared meanings and perspectives among my learners. As a result, such students have been able to cope with conflicts in team work and resolve any differences successfully. As I have come to realize, this instructional method is one of the best to prepare learners fir their future working-life.

Further, the approach of problem-based learning as an instructional method has been quite influential among my learners in terms of their knowledge acquisition in various dimensions. As I have noted, group learning based on experimentation and empirical research have been enhancing self reliant among learners. Since the learners are exposed to self-investigatory learning through directed experiments or experimental research, it has been quite strategy for learners to develop useful skills of doing things for themselves. As a result, learning has been student-centered, making it to be more meaningful to the learners, and subsequently creating a sense of interdependence among the learners. According to Gijselaers et al (1995), problem-based learning approach among learners enhances effective development of autonomy and self reliance among the learners, which fosters high degree of creativity and innovation among the learners. On this basis, experimentation as problem-based learning approach has been a powerful tool to nurture innovative and creative body of future workforce in the society.

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Through problem-based learning approach, the nature of the problem should also be relevant to the learners in order to arouse their internal interests so as to be highly motivated in the study. Having full understanding of the external labor market I usually been exposing my students in empirical learning studies which would prepare them best for their future endeavors. For instance, I have strongly been encouraging my fellow students to carryout most of their research in the internet. This strategy has been useful among these learners, since it would prepare them for their future endeavors with regard to the massive use of computers in almost all social organizations. Since the society has been largely revolutionized towards the digital world, this learning approach has been quite accurate as a measure to harmonize the labor market requirements and the educational institutions’ output. According to Edelbring et al (2004), to all the contemporary teachers or educators to try to initiate or introduce their learners on problems which relate to their areas of specialization so as to cherish motivation among the learners in the process of establishing solutions for the problem at hand, while at the same time preparing them for their future careers.

As I have realized, learners usually have varying attitudes towards various fields and therefore, a tutor should analyze his/her learners so as to establish the problem to be investigated critically and more appropriately. Since I have been able to understand the varying capabilities of my fellow students, I have been grouping my students in their various problem-based learning groups according their various abilities. As a result, those students who have low learning capacity have been easily helped up by their peer-learning groups as they solve problems practically. According to Driessen & Van-der-Vleuten (2000), the tendency of educators or instructors to know the needs of their learners helps them to group their learners more appropriately with respect to their various abilities in order to facilitate more productive learning. On this basis, this strategy has been involving less interactions with my students, but rather more learner-learner interaction. As a result, high degree of independence among the learners in their learning has been experienced, where they were contacting me in cases of any technical problem they faced. Particularly, the learners have been learning multi-dimensional knowledge, since their interaction with the environment helps them to reason logically and instigate the interactions of various phenomena (Chapman, 2002).

I have also realized that, directing and guiding students through hinting them on the research topic provides them with broad framework of the topic of research. By directing them on how to carry out their researches and investigation on the identified problem, I have realized how the cultivation of creativity among the learners is facilitated, resulting into deeper learning. According to Burton (2006), the tendency of team leaders or instructors to guide their learners in empirical studies ensures their concentration of the intended content, since the students stick to the scope of the problem under investigation. Throughout my experience in teaching using problem-based learning method, I have realized how useful to allow learners to investigate concepts and phenomena on their own, with subsequent guiding and corrections from one step to another. Particularly, it is usually appealing to learners to see and experience their own efforts and attempts to investigate on various issues of their learning content. As a result, students have been finding it quite enjoyable and interesting to investigate matters on their own, which cultivates high degree of motivation towards the learning content.

Certainly, the Problem-Based Learning approach works best for learners over twelve years, since past this age an individual is capable of thinking deductively and inductively. As I have realized, reasoning for learners past the age of twelve years becomes abstract in the sense that, they synthesize and analyze a phenomenon logically. According to Uyeda et al (2002), Problem-Based Learning approach assumes the ability of the learner to coordinate events and derive their relationship in logical manner. In this respect therefore, Problem-Based approach makes individuals develop life skills which enhances individuals be well equipped with techniques of coping with real life-situations. More specifically, the involvement of learners in challenging situations to devise their solutions on their own prepares them to become experts in their areas of specialization once they get into the future jobs (Savery, 2006).

Throughout my peer learning experience using Problem-Based Learning approach, I have been exposing my learners to empirical learning based real life experiences as reflections of the learners’ future working situations. Though real-life learning has been a bit challenging, it has been exposing learners to the expected real life application of the theoretical knowledge they gain in class. As a result, the learners have been finding it quite interesting to integrate the knowledge gained in class to their expected roles in their future careers. According to Torp & Sage (2002), problem-based learning approach is very helpful among learners, since it prepares them psychologically to solve real-life problems on their own, making them more self-reliant. In addition to helping learners to acquire practical life skills, problem-based learning helps learners to transfer knowledge gained to new situations.

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By exposing my fellow learners in group learning using Problem-Based Learning approach, team interaction is best enhanced when there are established structures to govern and regulate the overall behaviors of the members within a team (Stepien et al, 2000). Throughout my learning endeavors, the tendency of attaining successful group interactions has largely been dependent on the level of coordination within the groups. Particularly, I have been introducing learning teams and subsequent team leader to facilitate various roles of the team members. Though this method is best applied to students in higher learning institutions since they ought to be adequately prepared for their various jobs according their areas of specialization, its introduction to intermediate students lays a very strong background of interpersonal skills among the learners.

For effective learning using problem solving technique, Savery and Duffy (1995) reveals how a team leader should lead his/her students in collecting the relevant data in their investigation of the identified problem. As I have come to realize, critically led students in their peer group learning concentrates much on relevant issues, as opposed to situations where the students are left to learn without being guided. Since the role of the instructor is only to hint on relevant issues, it makes it easier for the learners to identify and focus on the highlighted areas without betting away from the relevant content. Particularly, the instructor should ensure to provide an outline for the problem to be solved by the learners in order to make it possible for them to concentrate on the most important aspects of the research problem (Dochy et al, 1999).

Considering my peer-group learning experience using problem-based learning approach, I have usually been guide my fellow learners so that they can be able to present, interpret and relate various phenomena involved in their problem being investigated. This has been achieved through allowing the learning groups to discuss the problem presented, and subsequently bring their results for further guidance by me. On giving them additional information about the solution they have identified, such learners have comprehensively understood the content area more deeply. As revealed by Lambros (2002), successful problem-based learning requires proper guidance of the learners by the instructor to facilitate the acquirement of the relevant knowledge, as prescribed by the curriculum. Since the instructor acts as the link between the curriculum and the students, his role in facilitating direction in problem-based learning remains quite remarkable.

It is also important to note that, problem-based learning approach is best useful to students in higher learning institutions since their reasoning capacities are a bit higher and are capable of investigating on events more through both deductive and inductive reasoning. This enhances their development in problem-solving skills and enhances their efficiency once they get into real life application of the knowledge gained. For instance, case studies as form of problem-based learning approach requires abstractive reasoning and coordination of ideas to establish the specific relationship between the variables involved. In this case, the teacher should provide a detailed guideline of the required aspects of the case study, relevant to the intended objectives of the study. According to Beringer (2007), problem-based learning approach works the best when all the steps necessary for scientific investigation are properly known to the students. Particularly, it is the role of the instructor to provide a detailed outline of the required knowledge on completion of a particular problem solving.

The most inspiring aspect of problem-based learning method is that, it is based on learning through real life situations which enhances motivation of the learners greatly. Particularly, throughout the learning experience I have with this method, I have realized how influential it is among students, since it facilitates gaining of knowledge among students as they interact with the environment directly (Allen & Rooney, 1998). Being related to psychomotor development skills, students are made capable of exploring their environment deeper, since the knowledge they gain through direct interaction with the environment enhances the development of psychic urge to know their environment more. Quite importantly, when students are exposed to research on topics in groups empirically by being active and participative, they become more informed of their environment, which facilitates the development of better problem solving skills more appropriately. With regard to Adamowski et al (2007), when students are exposed to manipulate the variables they are investigating on, they develop wider knowledge on how such variables are interrelated. As a result, such students usually have more generalized knowledge, which is capable of helping them become more effective problem solvers.

It is important to note that, the method finds its relevance among it’s the learners since it is entirely based on the environment they interact with and therefore acts as a motivating agent for more learning. This is because; the learners would be eager and more interested to learn about their environment better through an in-depth analysis on how various phenomena are inter-related and coordinated. With reference to Glasgow (1999), the engagement of students’ groups in active-learning based on problem-learning approach enhances the development of various competencies among them. Considering that each student will be active in finding the solution of the identified problem, team skills area easily acquired among such students. On this basis therefore, this method is very inspiring and motivating among the learners.

One of the most important aspects of Problem-Based Learning approach is that, learners are capable of learning new knowledge which has never been invented by other scholars. As it has been revealed, Problem-Based Learning Approach assumes that there no correct or wrong answer for a problem but the response depends on the supportive data and information given about a certain solution. Basically, the aspect of this learning approach of having no specific answer for a particular situation makes it suitable for individuals who would like to develop investigate on problems whose solutions have never been established. Pioneering of such investigations among learners enhances their motivation in getting into the in-depth parts of the problem to establish their solutions (Delisle, 1997).

Conclusion

Generally, the Problem-Based Learning approach is a very important learning method as it enhances the development of problem-solving skills among learners on various situations. As it has been revealed, the Problem-Based Learning approach stimulates motivation among learners since the learners would be very interested to learn about their environment better. Since learners are grouped in various small groups to investigate on a particular problem, interpersonal skills and other core competencies among such learners are cherished. More so, problem-based approach prepares learners in their future careers since it is much embedded on practical problem solving, making it possible for learners to forecast on their expected future roles.

In this regard therefore, Problem-Based Learning approach is quite inspiring in the way in involves learners into real life situations; preparing them for their future careers. On this basis, I have found problem-based learning approach the most suitable for preparing learners for the contemporary job markets as it involves much of experimentation on what is expected of them in their future endeavors.

References

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Burton, K. (2006). “The trial of an Audience Response System to Facilitate Problem- Based learning in legal education”. In: D. A. Banks (ed.), Audience response systems in higher education: applications and cases, pp. 265-275. Hershey, Pa: Information Science Publishing.

Chapman, D. (2002). Words That Make a Difference: Problem-Based Learning in Communication Arts Courses. Journal of General Education, 51 (4): 257-271.

Chapman, D. W. (1999). “Real worlds, real words: a PBL course in communication arts”. In: J. Conway; D. Melville & A. Williams (eds.), Research and Development in Problem Based Learning: volume 5, 1999: pbl: a way forward, pp. 56-61. Callaghan NSW: Australian Problem Based Learning Network, 1999.

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Hays, J. & Vincent, J. (2004). Students’ evaluation of problem-based learning in Graduate psychology courses. Teaching of Psychology, 31 (2): 124-126.

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