The PBL process was pioneered by Barrows and Tamblyn at the medical school program at McMaster University in Hamilton in the 1960s. Project Based Learning ( PBL) is a student-centred pedagogy where students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem. The PBL process does not focus on problem -solving with a defined solution, but it allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes. This includes knowledge acquisition, enhanced group collaboration and communication.
The PBL process was originally developed for medical education and has since been expanded to other programs of learning. The process allows learners to develop skills used for their future practice. It enhances critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and creativity.
The PBL process often entails working in small groups. Each student takes on a role within the group that may be formal or informal and the role often alternates. It is focused on the student’s reflection and reasoning to construct their own learning.
The process involves clarifying terms, defining problem(s), brainstorming, structuring and hypothesis, learning objectives, independent study and synthesising. In brief, it is identifying what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to the resolution of a problem.
The role of the tutor is to facilitate learning by supporting, guiding, and monitoring the learning process. The tutor aims to build students’ confidence when addressing problems, while also expanding their understanding. PBL represents a paradigm shift from traditional teaching and learning.
The constructs for teaching PBL are very different from traditional classroom and often require more preparation time and resources to support small group learning. Furthermore, PBL focuses on comprehension, not facts, upholds life-long learning, self-learning is augmented, enriches student-teacher relationship and encourages a self -motivated attitude.
Author: Catherine Perri, JUMP Trainer