Problem-based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an "active learning" strategy characterized by the use of open-ended problems. Working in groups, students are encouraged to explore a problem and direct their own learning as they attempt to come up with possible solutions. During the process, the teacher takes on the role of facilitator. The emphasis of PBL is placed on the process of learning and the importance of recognizing the knowledge and skills one needs to solve a problem, rather than the content itself. This strategy allows students to move towards higher levels of understanding and to develop skills that will benefit them when they are confronted with real-life problem solving situations in the workplace.

Problem-based learning is also referred to as Inquiry-based learning (IBL).

Benefits of Problem-Based Learning for Students:

  • Higher level of comprehension
  • Acquisition of skills needed for group work
  • Development of learning skills / strategies
  • Increased engagement


The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning (Purdue)
Problem-Based Learning - Sample syllabi, problems and evaluations

Books and Articles

Amador, J.A., Miles, L., and Peters, C.B. (2006). The Practice of Problem-Based Learning: A Guide to Implementing PBL in the College Classroom. Jossey-Bass.
Barell, J. (2007). Problem-Based Learning: An Inquiry Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Duch, B.J., Groh, S.E., and Allen, D.E. (2001). The power of problem-based learning: a practical "how to" for teaching undergraduate courses in any discipline, 1st ed. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. (LB1027.42.P69 2001)
Lee, V.S. (2004). Teaching & Learning Through Inquiry: A Guidebook for Institutions & Instructors. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. (LB 1027.44.T43)
Reynolds, R., Saxon, D., and Benmore, G. (2006). Impact on the Student Experience of Extending Problem-Based and Enquiry-Based Learning. Industry and Higher Education. 20(5): 359.
Savin-Baden, M. and Wilkie, K. (2006). Problem-Based Learning Online. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.