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Problem-based learning (PBL) is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in real problems.  It is a format that simultaneously develops both problem solving strategies and disciplinary knowledge bases and skills by placing students in the active role of problem-solvers confronted with an ill-structured situation that simulates the kind of problems they are likely to face as future managers in complex organizations. Video by Graham Street Instructor at ACC
Problem-based learning is student-centered.  PBL makes a fundamental shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.  The process is aimed at using the power of authentic problem solving to engage students and enhance their learning and motivation. There are several unique aspects that define the PBL approach:

  • Learning takes place within the context of authentic tasks, issues, and problems that are aligned with real-world concerns.
  • In a PBL course, students and the instructor(s) become co-learners, co-planners, co-producers, and co-evaluators as they design, implement, and continually refine their curricula.
  • The PBL approach is grounded in solid academic research on learning and on the best practices that promote it.  This approach stimulates students to take responsibility for their own learning since there are few lectures, no structured sequence of assigned readings, and so on.
  • PBL is unique in that it fosters collaboration among students, stresses the development of problem solving skills within the context of professional practice, promotes effective reasoning and self-directed learning, and is aimed at increasing motivation for life-long learning.
Problem-based learning begins with the introduction of an ill-structured problem on which all learning is centered.  The problem is one that students are likely to face as future professionals.  Expertise is developed by engaging in progressive problem solving.  Thus, problems drive the organization, dynamics and learning throughout the course.  Students, individually and collectively, assume major responsibility for their own learning and instruction.  Most of the learning occurs in self-directed small groups rather than facilitator-focused lectures.  The PBL facilitator role changes from “sage on the stage” to a “guide by the side” as a coach and infrequent resource.  Similarly, the students are more active as learners, problem-solvers, and decision-makers, rather than passive listeners and note-takers.
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The Police Society for Problem Based Learning
PO Box 362  Oakley, California, USA  94561
Email us: info@pspbl.org