How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom.Delisle, R. (1997). How to Use Problem-Based Learning problem-based learning Medical education An instruction strategy in which groups of students are presented with clinical problems without prior study or lectures. See Cooperative learning. in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, is a membership-based nonprofit organization founded in 1943. It has more than 175,000 members in 135 countries, including superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and (107 pp., $12.95 paper, ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 0-87120-291-3).
The use of problem-based learning to deliver differentiated curriculum and develop student talent is becoming quite popular. As the label implies, problem-based learning (PBL PBL Problem-Based Learning
PBL Phi Beta Lambda
PBL Performance Based Logistics
PBL Planetary Boundary Layer
PBL Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (Australia)
PBL Philippine Basketball League
PBL Peripheral Blood Leukocyte ) is an educational approach where an ill-structured, interdisciplinary problem initiates learning. PBL is also perceived to promote constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects. and situated approaches to learning, cognition cognition
Act or process of knowing. Cognition includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing. , and instruction (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Resnick, 1987). Considerable research support is being gathered on the positive impact of PBL on student achievement (e.g., Gallagher & Stepien, 1996; Gorman, Plucker pluck
v. plucked, pluck·ing, plucks
1. To remove or detach by grasping and pulling abruptly with the fingers; pick: pluck a flower; pluck feathers from a chicken. , & Callahan, 1998).
As a result of the growing support for PBL, several guides to developing problem-based curricula have recently been published. The purpose here is to review two of these recent books: How to Use Problem-based Learning in the Classroom (Delisle, 1997) and Problems as Possibilities: Problem-based Learning for K-12 Education (Torp & Sage, 1998).
Recent reviews of PBL application generally mention six important aspects of PBL unit development (Gallagher, 1997; Nowak & Plucker, 1998; Plucker & Nowak, in press). The six components are the role of the problem, the role of the teacher, the role of students, the role of thinking skills, the role of social interaction, and the role of assessment. Addressing these six facets is considered to be critical to the success of the unit. In this review, we analyze the contents of each book in terms of their treatment of the six components. Overview of Each Book
Delisle, in How to Use Problem-based Learning in the Classroom, includes three different types of chapters: a description and rationale for the use of PBL (Chapters 1 and 2), several how-to chapters (3-6, 12), and five examples of PBL implemented at various grade levels (7-11). In Problems as Possibilities: Problem-Based Learning for K-12 Education, Torp and Sage follow roughly the same format, with Chapters 1-3 and 7 devoted to the origins and foundations of PBL and Chapters 4-6 dealing with classroom application. Unlike Delisle, Torp and Sage do not include lengthy, detailed examples. Interestingly, Delisle begins his book with the question "Why PBL?," while Torp and Sage address this question most directly in their final chapter.
Role of the Problem
In line with recent recommendations, both books recommend that the problem be ill-structured and complex, which requires students to search beyond the readily available information to solve the problem. Delisle provides several helpful tables that teachers can use during the problem generation and other phases of PBL, while Torp and Sage provide fewer charts of this type.
Role of the Teacher
The books take different perspectives on the role of the teacher. Delisle suggests three interrelated in·ter·re·late
tr. & intr.v. in·ter·re·lat·ed, in·ter·re·lat·ing, in·ter·re·lates
To place in or come into mutual relationship.
in roles: teacher as curriculum designer, teacher as guide, and teacher as evaluator. Torp and Sage describe an evolving role for the PBL teacher, beginning with the presentation of problem-solving heuristics heu·ris·tic
1. Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem: , moving into a role of a cognitive coach or metacognitive guide, and ending with the teacher as coaching "from the sidelines Sidelines
Hypothetical position referring to noninvolvement in a stock; merely watching. as students move toward ... problem resolution" (p. 65). Both perspectives are valuable, with a compromise position being that the teacher always performs Delisle's multiple roles, but that the nature of the roles develops from the more didactic di·dac·tic
Of or relating to medical teaching by lectures or textbooks as distinguished from clinical demonstration with patients. to the more supportive as students gain experience with PBL.
The authors of both books provide additional description of the teacher's role, with an emphasis on the anticipation and incorporation of direct instruction and assessment at critical points in the problem investigation. Both books also present the material clearly and with little extraneous ex·tra·ne·ous
1. Not constituting a vital element or part.
2. Inessential or unrelated to the topic or matter at hand; irrelevant. See Synonyms at irrelevant.
Role of the Student
The authors describe the students as being hooked and engaged by an intriguing problematic situation. As the students are coached in their roles as real-world investigators and active learners, they become self-regulated learners empowered to investigate needed information, pursue logical lines of inquiry, and learn actively. Thus, motivated by the problem that centers all learning in PBL, students apply knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that are meaningful and authentic (i.e., real world) activities. Ultimately, the students develop into self-directed learners and problem solvers. As students are authentically assessed and held accountable by presenting their solutions to peers and community members, student thinking and interpersonal skills "Interpersonal skills" refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interactions in order to reach certain effects or results. The term "interpersonal skills" is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability are further developed.
In our experiences, a major difficulty encountered during PBL implementation is forcing students into the potentially unfamiliar role of real-world investigator too quickly (This happens even with graduate students!). Delisle and Torp and Sage effectively describe strategies for gradually providing students with greater and greater responsibility for their learning. This aspect of the books is one of their most impressive strengths.
Role of Thinking Skills
A PBL activity, when well designed and implemented, should encourage critical thinking. By exposing children to problems without an easily identifiable solution and encouraging students to consider alternative perspectives, teachers help students develop thinking skills within the context of the problem being solved (Plucker & Nowak, in press). As characterized by the authors, PBL engages students as stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. in a problematic situation. With the teacher serving as coach, student thinking and inquiry is guided to facilitate deeper levels of understanding.
Torp and Sage further delineate the role of thinking skills into cognitive and metacognitive areas, providing an expanded framework upon which to develop thinking skills. Delisle does not go to such lengths, but the importance of thinking skills -- and the often embedded Inserted into. See embedded system. nature of their instruction during PBL -- is implicit in Adj. 1. implicit in - in the nature of something though not readily apparent; "shortcomings inherent in our approach"; "an underlying meaning"
underlying, inherent many of his detailed examples. Surprisingly, the authors do not explicitly address the role of traditional content and skill delivery during PBL (e.g., Is there ever a time when students need to be pulled out of a PBL activity to listen to a mini-lecture or learn a specific skill apart from the problem at hand?). In both books, the issue occasionally appears, but it is not directly addressed.
Role of Social Interaction
Collaboration both within and between groups forces students to reflect on their peers' and their own problem-solving, further enhancing content and skill acquisition. As defined by Torp and Sage, collaboration fosters the disposition to be open-minded and adaptable as knowledge is co-constructed. This parallels the real-world necessity for the ability to work with and lead others, negotiate, and tolerate and appreciate individual differences. The authors of both texts provide a strong rationale for social interaction, but actual suggestions for introducing students (and teachers) to PBL collaboration are limited.
Role of Assessment
The alignment of instruction and assessment during PBL is essential for long-term success (Nowak & Plucker, 1998). However, the role of assessment in PBL is often poorly understood, with learning-assessment misalignment mis·a·ligned
misa·lignment n. a frequent occurrence during PBL units. Torp and Sage describe the necessity of providing authentic, embedded assessment, describing and summarizing several products, forms, and criteria for assessing student efforts and progress. Delisle, who also advocates embedded assessment, describes an approach that incorporates both student assessment and program evaluation Program evaluation is a formalized approach to studying and assessing projects, policies and program and determining if they 'work'. Program evaluation is used in government and the private sector and it's taught in numerous universities. , with detailed templates and descriptions for student and teacher self-evaluation. Delisle also suggests several questions to ask of the problem at the conclusion of the unit: Did the problem meet key curriculum goals? connect the inside world with the outside world? emerge from the concerns of students and evoke their interests? (p. 39). While readers will come away from the books with considerable assessment information, we question how useful the recommended strategies would be. Teachers tend to assess summatively, and the authors do not provide enough guidance on the embedded assessment they so strongly recommend. This mirrors our concerns over the strong rationale yet relatively thin implementation information to guide student/teacher collaboration.
Both books address all six critical aspects of problem-based learning, but the level of coverage varies considerably from book to book and component to component. Both books have considerable strengths, but their weaknesses prevent us from recommending either book as the sole resource for the teacher interested in implementing problem-based learning. Of course, this is to be expected when writing about a curricular strategy that is as all-encompassing as PBL. Taken collectively, however, these texts form a high quality resource for teachers who are considering the PBL implementation in their classroom. For example, Delisle's detailed examples of PBL curricula and Torp and Sage's appendix of useful contacts and resources compliment what are weak or nonexistent non·ex·is·tence
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.
non sections of the other book. We recommend reading and using both books, with supplementary materials drawn from the collaborative learning Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches in education that involve joint intellectual effort by students or students and teachers. Collaborative learning refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task in which each and assessment literature.
The politics and logistics of implementation receive inadequate attention in both books. Even for a veteran teacher, designing a PBL curriculum can be an intense and daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin task. The suggested resources are helpful (especially .those provided by Torp and Sage in Chapter 7), but practical suggestions for overcoming political and other pragmatic hurdles is lacking in both volumes. For example, little discussion is directed at how to address the established standardized standardized
pertaining to data that have been submitted to standardization procedures.
standardized morbidity rate
see morbidity rate.
standardized mortality rate
see mortality rate. curricula geared towards standardized testing A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a standard manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the "questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent"  at the local, state and national levels. While information is provided that could be used when confronted with this issue (e.g., citations of studies that found that PBL is as effective in teaching content as traditional methods), these facts alone do not suggest strategies for how to deal with student, parent, and administrative expectations and concerns in this area. An elaboration of the material included by Torp and Sage in Figure 7.2 would be helpful.
Unfortunately, in our experiences, a thorough discussion of these issues has yet to be published, so recommending additional resources is difficult. One possibility is to investigate gifted education Gifted education is a broad term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented. Programs providing such education are sometimes called Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) or models that rely heavily on PBL activities -- such as the Schoolwide Enrichment Model -- since many of the related resources are extensively teacher-tested and include suggestions for overcoming logistical lo·gis·tic also lo·gis·ti·cal
1. Of or relating to symbolic logic.
2. Of or relating to logistics.
[Medieval Latin logisticus, of calculation and political barriers to PBL implementation.
These books provide an excellent starting point Noun 1. starting point - earliest limiting point
terminus a quo
commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, starting time, beginning, start, kickoff, first - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the for educators who are interested in problem-based learning. If properly supplemented, they can provide sufficient guidance for teachers who are attempting to use PBL with all children. However, given the problem-based curriculum that is often present in programs for the gifted and talented, we caution experienced teachers of the gifted that these books may be too introductory for their tastes.
Brady, L. R., Jr. (Ed.). (1976). The USMES [unified sciences unified science
or unity-of-science view
In the philosophy of logical positivism, the doctrine holding that all sciences share the same language, laws, and method. and mathematics for elementary schools elementary school: see school. ] guide: Mathematics and the natural, social, and communications sciences in real problem-solving. Newton, MA: Educational Development Center, Inc.
Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989a). Situated cognition Situated cognition is a movement in cognitive psychology which derives from pragmatism, Gibsonian ecological psychology, ethnomethodology, the theories of Vygotsky (activity theory) and the writings of Heidegger. and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher. 18(1), 32-42.
Gallagher, S. A. (1997). Problem-based learning: Where did it come from, what does it do, and where is it going? Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 20, 332-362.
Gallagher, S. A., & Stepien, W. J. (1996). Content acquisition in problem-based learning: Depth versus breadth in American studies. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 19, 257-275.
Gorman, M E., Plucker, J., & Callahan, C. M. (1998). Turning students into inventors: Active learning modules for secondary students. Phi Delta Kappan, 79(7), 530-535.
Nowak, J. A., & Plucker, J. A. (1998). Do as I say. not as I do? Student assessment in problem-based learning. Unpublished manuscript.
Plucker, J. A., & Nowak, J. A. (in press). Creativity in science for K-8 practitioners: problem-based approaches to discovery and invention. In M. Lynch & C. R. Harris (Eds.), Teaching the creative child, K-8 Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Resnick, L. B. (1987). Education and learning to think. Washington, DC: National Academy Press
Reviewed by Jonathan Plucker is an assistant professor of educational psychology at Indiana University Indiana University, main campus at Bloomington; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1820 as a seminary, opened 1824. It became a college in 1828 and a university in 1838. The medical center (run jointly with Purdue Univ. , Bloomington, where Jeffrey Nowak, a high school science teacher, is a doctoral student in science education.