The emergence of different kinds of group work is a welcome outgrowth of the move away from lectures. There’s still plenty of lecturing going on, but there’s less than there used to be. In its place are a variety of activities that more effectively engage students; one of the most common being the use of group work.
Bridging that gap between the classroom and the real world is one of my main goals as a faculty member. When I first started teaching, fresh out of the professional world, I struggled with having my students only receive a textbook education. I wanted them to not only learn the concepts relevant to their field, but I wanted them to be able to experience it as well. I was growing tired of hearing that our graduates were struggling with applying the information they had received in school. It seemed the same topics such as writing, communication, and critical thinking, were constantly being mentioned as areas of improvement for our students from professionals in the field.
“Inquiry-based learning is an umbrella term, encompassing a range of teaching approaches which involve stimulating learning with a question or issue and thereby engaging learners in constructing new knowledge and understandings.” (p. 57) Teachers who use these approaches act as facilitators of learning. Students start becoming more self-directed learners. A hodgepodge of approaches gets put under this umbrella, including case-based learning; problem-based learning; and discovery-oriented learning, which involves undertaking original research.
As the name implies, problems are absolutely essential for problem-based learning (PBL). Problems initiate students’ learning in PBL. In other words, if there are no problems, there will be no problem-based learning.
Problem solving is “what you do when you don’t know what to do.”
What a simple, straightforward definition for something often defined in much more complex ways. But problem solving doesn’t always mean the same thing. It might be the solution to a specific problem, like those that appear on math quizzes, or it might be a collection of possibilities that respond to a complex open-ended problem. But however it’s defined, problem solving is one of those skills all teachers aspire to have their students develop.
I was looking something up and happened on this brief identification of the defining characteristics for problem-based learning (PBL). Not only does it offer a great review, but it reminds us why PBL is such a powerful pedagogical strategy.
Problem-based learning, the instructional approach in which carefully constructed, open-ended problems are used by groups of students to work through content to a solution, has gained a foothold in many quarters of higher education.