The instructional strategy of problem-based learning (PBL) actively engages learners in the resolution of a complex real-world problem (Glazer, 2001). PBL can be used as the introductory phase of a lesson, module or course (Clark, 2003) and is often approached as a collaborative effort (Glazer, 2001).
Many instructional models recognize PBL as the most effective learning environment due to the learner’s involvement in the learning process through activation of prior knowledge, demonstration of skills, application of skills and integration of these skills into real-world situation (Merrill, 2002). According to Merrill (2002), these activities are the basis for effective instruction because (a) learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems, (b) learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge, (c) learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner, (d) learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner, and (e) learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world” (p. 44-45).
Students are challenged by real-world situations, engaged to utilize higher order thinking skills, and motivated by an opportunity to investigate and solve realistic problems (Glazer, 2001). The specific nature of a problem promotes knowledge transfer as well as providing a means to integrate knowledge with practice (Clark, 203).
Designing and effective PBL activities requires the generation of a problems that addresses concepts and principles relevant to the topic being studies (Glazer, 2001). The leaner-centered nature of PBL means that learners can take ownership of the problem by creating or selecting it (Glazer, 2001). Instructors must act as facilitator or coaches allowing the learners to develop their own hypotheses f how to solve the problem (Glazer, 2001). Learners must be provided with assessment criteria and well as additional resources that might aid in the inquiry (Glazer, 2001).
PBL in various online contexts, including mathematics. One such problem is stated as (You are interested in purchasing a new vehicle. What should your annual salary be to afford the car you want?” (para. 1). Resources are provided and the performance assessment criteria include team involvement, mathematical justification supported by relevant information.
Simulated real-world environments created using authoring software can be utilize as the back drops for PBL scenarios. Online access to the problem statement, assessment criteria, instructor, and resources is a means of supplying readily available references for the collaborative team. Collaboration tools provided by learning management systems provide the communication catalyst that allows team members to exchange ideas, information, resources and ultimately solve the problem.
Clark, R. (2003). Building expertise. International Society for Performance Improvement. Washington D.C. 2nd ed.
Glazer, E. (2001). Problem based instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from http://www.coe.uga.edu/epltt/ProblemBasedInstruct.htm
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. In ETR&D. 50(3) 43–59. Retrieved May 25, 2005, fromhttp://mim.aect-members.org/m/etrd/archives/5003/5003-03.pdf#search='problem%20centered%20instruction'