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Problem Based Learning (PBL) promotes the skill of independent search for new knowledge. In addition to the content knowledge acquired the working format provides opportunities to develop skills like problem solving, communication and group collaboration; qualities of vital importance for future working life.
- Fundamental in PBL is to first identify existing knowledge as well as to identify gaps where the present knowledge is not enough.
- The learning process departs from a problem/case/scenario.
- The case is worked through in a small group of approximately 7-8 participants.
- In the group there is always a teacher (tutor) present to follow the working process and to ensure that the learning objectives of the problem are achieved.
- The problems should be constructed in a way that the group participants can get hold of the problem with their existing knowledge but not solve it all on the first meeting.
- The problems should preferably be taken from a future possible professional situation. This because it is easier to later recall something in a context that share features with the context where the knowledge was acquired.
- The group meets twice for each case and the working process follows 7 steps.
- Meeting 1: step 1-5. In step number 5 the group formulates study goals for step 6.
- Step 6 is the individual study phase.
- Meeting 2: step 7. The group reassembles and continues their work by help of their gathered new knowledge.
After each meeting the group evaluates the work. This discussion is an important instrument to develop and improve the collaboration in the group.
Where did PBL start?
The method originates from McMaster University in Canada. At Maastricht University in Holland the work according to the seven steps has been developed and the effects of the method have been thoroughly researched. PBL reached Sweden in the eighties and since the beginning of the nineties we now have PBL on many programs at the Medical Faculty.
How many students work together in each group?
7-9. Sometimes 12-15 but then each group member gets less space to contribute to the process.
For how long does the group constellation last?
Most often for 7-8 weeks and sometimes for one full semester.
Is the teacher the leader of the group?
No, the group has a chairman and a secretary (or more) for each problem and these roles circulate so all students has to practice on how to lead the group. The tutor can take on a very active role but never when it comes to providing the content matter.
Does PBL only include the small group meetings?
No, any teaching and learning activity (lectures, laboratory work, study visits, seminars...) can be included in the course design but mind the sequence and always start with the problem first and do not provide any content prematurely. It will only shortcut the loop of motivation.