10 examples of problem-based learning
Several practical examples that show us this interactive way of acquiring knowledge.
Human beings never stop learning. Whether at school, at home, with the family, or in the street, with friends and other acquaintances, we can nourish ourselves with new knowledge useful for our daily lives.
Everyday situations provide us with knowledge, and this is taken into account in the approach of the Problem-Based Learning (PBL). This method aims to confront the student with real situations, investigate them and, through the use of critical judgment, learn in an autonomous and cooperative way.
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Examples of problem-based learning.
The number of problem situations that can be posed is infinite. In this article we will look at 10 cases of problem-based learning. and some of the concepts that can be taught through them.
1. Economy: Family shopping
A low-income family wants to buy everything they need, but without spending more than they can afford.
The students can ask themselves several questions: what are basic foodstuffs? what are their properties? how can they make the purchase as cheap as possible?
Based on these questions, they can research the nutrients in foods and determine which ones are dispensable. In addition, this exercise leaves the option of doing field work, going to supermarkets and comparing the prices of products..
This knowledge is useful since they learn what the basic foods are, in addition to being able to apply their newly acquired knowledge and savings strategies in their daily lives.
2. Biology: Insect pest
There is a plague of mosquitoes in a village, affecting tourism and harming the health of the inhabitants.
Some questions students can ask themselves: how do mosquitoes reproduce? are they native to the area? have there been torrential rains? Have there been torrential rains? stagnant water? what insecticides are usually used in the village?
From here they can elaborate an action plan to reduce the number of insects as well as how to teach the inhabitants to deal with the problem in the future.
3. Safety: Evacuation of a school
A high school had a fire and the evacuation plan was a disaster: the emergency doors were blocked, there was pushing and shoving, and the students were not able to evacuate.The emergency doors were blocked, there was pushing and shoving, and the students breathed in a lot of smoke.
The evacuation plan was reworked to prevent this from happening again. Students can ask themselves what went wrong the last time, if the emergency signs were well placed, if the educational staff had clear roles in case of evacuation...
Students themselves can investigate what their school's evacuation plan is. Find out where the emergency exits are and learn the safety signs. They can contact firefighters and police to explain what to do in case of emergency and how not to act.
4. Chemistry: Heartburn
To understand concepts such as acidity/basicity, the example of heartburn is a recurring one..
In the stomach there are acids that digest food, which are affected by the type of diet. Students can indicate at what times they have felt this pain, and what they had eaten when it happened to them.
They can learn about how antacids work, make a model of a stomach and add different foods to them to see how the acids react....
Based on this example, they not only learn about chemical concepts, but also about proper eating habits to avoid heartburn.
5. Physics: Fly swatter
Why is trying to kill a fly with your hand less effective than trying to kill it with a fly swatter? This question can be posed to introduce the concept of aerodynamics.
Students can try to explain why in a practical way by making their own fly swatters and see how to make them as effective as possible.
Although this may seem like a very simple example of problem-based learning, having to make a fly swatter is not an easy task if you don't know why you are designing it, allowing students to experiment and be involved in their own learning.
6. Psychology: Recruitment for a hospital
A new hospital has been built and is looking for new staff.. The idea is to select new employees by administering a battery of questionnaires.
The students are to investigate which tests are most appropriate for the selection of health care personnel. They are to rank these questionnaires themselves and determine which ones they should use for the task at hand.
By doing this, instead of having to memorize lists of questionnaires, the students become part of their own learning, and conduct in-depth research that allows them to become familiar with different assessment tools.
7. Math: Playing with triangles
Instead of teaching formulas for each type of triangle, elementary school children can be familiarized with concepts such as area and perimeter by playing tangrams..
Different figures are presented on the board and each child has a tangram set. The children have to imitate the shapes.
Once they have learned the different types of triangles, mathematical concepts can be introduced by looking for real-life triangular shapes and forming groups to measure the sides of each triangle. In this way, students learn in a group and interactive way.
8. Math: Calculating heights
Instead of teaching the classic and heavy trigonometric formulas, you can propose to go to the street and calculate the height of buildings..
Separate the students into groups, and each of them should measure the shadow of the buildings and the degree of inclination. From this information they can calculate the heights, as well as relate the new learning to real-life objects and relate it to concepts learned in previous courses: Pythagorean theorem, inclination, distance...
9. Water shortage
In a village there are problems with drinking water. The faucet usually has air in it, and if it does, the water does not come out with much pressure. Some suggest it is because a local farmer has diverted the river to irrigate his crops, others suggest it is because of a lack of water, and some because it is wasted.
Knowing the problem situation, the students can ask themselves if the pipes are broken, if the water source is drying up....
They can also ask if the diverted river is really the same source of drinking water, how the sources can be improved, what to do to increase vegetation in the area.
10. Art history: film about Ancient Greece
A director wants to make a film about Ancient Greece. Although the script is completely invented, he wants the setting and the traditions depicted to be as realistic as possible.
The students act as if they were fine arts consultants.. They should document what the buildings were like in classical times. Read the script and find out which would be the most appropriate places to represent the scenes of the film.
- Hmelo-Silver, Cindy. (2004). Problem-Based Learning: What and How Do Students Learn? Educational Psychology Review. 16. 235-266.
- Ceker, E. and Ozdamli, F. (2016). Features and characteristics of problem based learning. * Cypriot Journal of Educational Science. 11(4), 195-202.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)