Problem-based Learning

What is Problem-based Learning?

An active form of learning. Students are not passive consumers of lectures; they are active problem-solvers. Problem-based learning will push you to ask questions, research the answers, integrate theory and practice and communicate what you know to others. The solution depends on you!

An interdisciplinary method of learning. Problem-based learning recognizes that multiple perspectives are needed to solve complex problems. You'll be expected to draw on multiple disciplines in order to find the best solutions to a problem.

A different way of relating to professors. In this model of education, teachers are more often your tutors or coaches than lecturers dispensing their knowledge. They’ll help you find the answers you need, often by employing a team approach themselves.

A method that embraces life’s messiness. You’ll tear your hair out a few times trying to get a handle on the problem you are dealing with. It won’t be neatly structured. Defining the root problem and figuring out what is worth tackling is part of the skill set you’ll develop.

Learn more:

This summary is based on John R. Savery’s article, "Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions," from The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, volume 1, no. 1 (Spring 2006).

To see sample case studies and problems that have been used in problem-based learning approaches, visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.

Many more resources are also available through the University of Michigan's Center for Research on Teaching and Learning.