Problem Based Learning:           

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Phyllis Leary Newbill, Tiffany A. Drape, Christine Schnittka, Liesl Baum, and Michael A. Evans


Problem-Based Learning is, as its name suggests, learning that occurs as a result of solving real-world problems (Combs, 2008). It is inherently meaningful and contextualized. Problem-based learning creates environments where students assume ownership of their learning; it is simply more interesting than memorizing information (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). In this constructivist instructional method (Driscoll, 2005), the problem to be solved has “some social, cultural or intellectual value to someone” (Jonassen et al., 2003, p. 20). Savery (2006) defined problem-based learning in the classroom as having certain critical characteristics:

1. Students have responsibility for their own learning.

2. Problems are ill-structured and allow for free inquiry.

3. Learning is interdisciplinary.

4. Collaboration is essential.

5. Self-directed learning informs group decisions.

6. Reflection is essential.

7. Self and peer assessment happens regularly.

8. Problems have real-world value.

9. Assessment checks process and product. (Savery, 2006, pp. 12–14)


Project based learning elements;   (good summary of the key elements )     

PBL— as opposed to “projects”— relies on:
rigorous assessments
challenging questions
proven management methods
exhibitions of knowledge and skills to ensure powerful learning.
Reports, Presentations, Seminars


Markham, Thom. Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide . HeartIQ Press.  


PBL is not enough ... Students must be cognitively aware of skills they are using
In problem-based learning, Beside solving the community, world, school problems, “learning life skills along the way” is also a goal of the work. Which Skills are we going to focus on in this project?

See pictorial example of this (PDF):

 Life-Skill examples:

Problem Solving 

  Financial literacy

 Time management

Measurement / Feedback

Thinking skills (creative & critical thinking, questioning)

  Character traits

Flexibility. Persisting, Meta-cognition, Accuracy


Self-awareness, Empathy, Handling relationships

Learning from failure


 Continuous improvement/ Quality

Process methods,
and juggle multiple tasks successfully

Planning/Goal setting focus attention, remember instructions

Financial literacy

Values … honesty, loving kindness


Teams / Culture diversity

Decision making




Listening skills

Social Intelligence Knowledge of Social Roles, Rules, and Scripts

Presentation skills

Non-verbal, eye-contact, greeting skills 

Project learning example elements:
Tasks Description
What's our culture?


The school will foster a Team/Community based culture of a learning environment, with all treated as adults and with respect.




Key words are:    Discussion

Respect, Empathy, Kindness, Curiosity, Innovation, Persisting, Flexibility, Listening, Continuous learning, Humor, Taking responsible risk, Commitment and Buy-in.  


Forming a team  Charter See one-page overview

  • ·        Picking roles and developing rules of engagement

  • ·        Collaboration skills

  • ·        How are they going to measure success?

  • ·        Progress measurements

  • ·        Time management

  • ·        Character skills 



Conflict resolution

Discussing non-verbal communications ... Good time to get students thinking about this important learning tool

See list:

Framing the Problem


Mind mapping

The definition of the problem will be the focal point of all your problem-solving efforts. As such, it makes sense to devote as much attention and dedication to problem definition as possible. What usually happens is that as soon as we have a problem to work on we’re so eager to get to solutions that we neglect spending any time refining it.

Problem solving process



Creative thinking
Critical thinking
System thinking



Creating a plan



Financial plan

Based on the situation

Learn about financial literacy

Do they need resources to solve the problem


Developing partners

Based on the situation

Reach out to the community for support & mentoring


Reflection process


Brain Plasticity Can we continuously learn?

Stopping and looking back on what we learned and need to change





What questions do I need to ask?

  • ·        What do I know?

  • ·        What don’t I know?

  • What do I need to know?


Developing requirements


Must / Wants


( Who, What and Why) in setting up the business

Who is the customer or audience?

What do they need?

Why do they need this?

How are we going to judge our design?


 Brain writing

Creative and team communication




Team communication




Building decision table
Testing Going to the community

Important to have business, organizations, and family as part of the assessment

Presentation Professional presentation to partners, parents, community, and peers


Celebrations Leave new challenges and comments for the next team

Markham, Thom. Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide.  HeartIQ Press. Kindle Edition.