Techniques and Strategies For Problem-Based Learning At College


Problem-based learning is not a new thing by any approximation, but the truth is that both teachers and students often fail to properly understand it and use it to the full extent of the method’s possibilities. Problem-based learning, also known as student-centered education, is based on the idea that the teacher is not the provider of knowledge but the facilitator of learning. However, PBL is much more complicated than just simply providing the learners with a problem and waiting for them to solve it. One needs to understand how PBL works if he wants to attain enough self-sufficiency to study using it successfully. In this article, we will cover some of the ways teachers implement this approach so that you better understand what is expected of you and how to work when learning under PBL

1.    Brainstorming

The first few class meetings following problem-based learning should be built around brainstorming sessions covering the main issues of the course. They should set up the required attitude among the students and teach them to express their own opinions on the subject of their studies instead of waiting for input on the part of a teacher.

2.    Open-ended problems

One of the most important principles of problem-based learning is the use of open-ended or, to put it in another way, ill-structured problems. This means that, contrary to what one is used to in traditional learning, a problem shouldn’t have a single obviously correct solution. Students have to employ a number of different methods before they choose any particular one, and alternative approaches should be just as viable as any other. Therefore, according to experts from Trafficora, such problems require more information than is available at the beginning (meaning that students have to do their own research to find working solutions and that they are not limited to the data provided by the teacher at the start). Finding a correct decision may even require the use of rapid prototyping services even for a simple idea of custom boxes to see if a working solution can be built.

3.    Problems first

Another core principle is that problems should be set in front of students before any formal instruction on the topic is done. This teaches them to rely only on themselves and encourages out of the box thinking, facilitating original approaches and independent decision-making.

4.    Collaboration

Students should work on problems in groups, usually from 3 to 8 students in each. The sizes of the groups are determined by the overall number of students in the course and the number of tutors. The important thing here is to understand that the work on the problem isn’t limited to school time – students should learn to organize themselves for independent group work outside of school; therefore, problems should be built in such a way so as to make it impossible to find solutions within the school hours viable. Another important aspect (and one of the most crucial responsibilities of the tutor) is to ensure that every member of the group takes part in problem-solving.

5.    Tools

Another responsibility of the tutor is to give students the tools they are going to need in their work. Although problem-based learning is built around the principle of dealing with problems independently, the teacher should first familiarize the students with the tools necessary to do their work (library references, online services, apps, databases, etc.). In addition to that, it is important to point out common misconceptions and mistakes that can take too much time to figure out by themselves.

Problem-based learning is much more complicated than one may have been led to believe judging by its core principles. We hope that after reading this article, you understand it a little better.

BY LINE–Kristian Krisyk had been working in the field of web design for 7 years before becoming an entrepreneur in 2014 in design and marketing. His professional interests and hobbies defined major topics of his articles. These days Kristian runs his business and looks for new development opportunities. Follow him @KristianKrisyk or contact at




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