You, or your team, can get started with PBL with the help of the steps presented here. Also consult the Introduction and Models and Examples sections of this site. If you would like some help from CELT in planning and implementing your teaching project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because PBL can have implications not only for classroom but for curriculum, student assessment and evaluations of teaching, and because it may involve a whole course team, department or school, forward planning is essential.
Here are the simple procedures to help you start planning and implementing your PBL course:
Step 1: Access Your Needs
You will have your reasons for wanting to implement PBL. Perhaps your students are learning the course content very well but have not developed the ability to think critically and independently about what they learn. Perhaps your local professional body is asking for graduates who can work more independently.
Step 2: Choose Your PBL Course Model
The different PBL models now in common use are outlined in the Models and Examples on the sub-menu of this site. They have very different implications for curriculum modification, assessment of students, student evaluation of teaching, availability of library resources, and even the kind of teaching space that you will require to implement the course. Of course other variations are possible: the models outlined are for reference and to help you get started.
Step 3: Review Curriculum & Assessment
Regardless of which model you choose to adopt some review of the curriculum content will be necessary in order to incorporate the goals of developing students' learning skills in addition to their understanding of the course content. This will invariably require adjustments to the way in which you assess students as well. With a simple model using PBL as a supplementary tool in some tutorials, curriculum adjustments may be minimal. In the most comprehensive model of a whole program conversion to PBL, a total curriculum review is required.
Step 4: Review Your Instructional Strategies
Management of PBL sessions places particular requirements on instructors and changes their role from being primarily the provider of knowledge to facilitator of the students' own knowledge acquisition. In this case both students and teachers need to revise their expectations of each other and may need to acquire some additional skills for teaching and learning as well.
Step 5: Devise Your Problems
The key to success in Problem-Based Learning is having good problems for students to work with. Ideally they should reflect real world problem solving situations in a professional context and should lead students to find the appropriate course content for their solution and to develop the skills of reasoning about that content. A good starting point might be modification of the kinds of problems that you already use in your course. Alternatively there are now PBL courses in a wide range of disciplines worldwide and some of these document the problems that they use. The following sites provide sample syllabi and sample problems and case studies for a number of disciplines:
- Problem-Based Learning at the University of Delaware
- The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science Case Study Collection
Step 6: Review Student Evaluation of Teaching
We recommend you to take a careful look at the Student Evaluation of Teaching questionnaire that you are currently using. Does it reflect the style of teaching that you will be using in your PBL course? If not, it may need to be modified or extended.
Step 7: Orientate Students
At the beginning of the semester when you plan to implement PBL, we recommend that you orient your students to the new course format by walking them through the special learning activities that PBL will demand of them. They should also feel comfortable with any assessment requirements that may be placed on them that are different from their previous experience. For example, you may choose to assess class participation or group leadership skills.