Why PBL?

Learning begins with a problem...

In a problem-based learning (PBL) class, students work together in small groups to solve real-world problems. PBL is an active and iterative process that engages students to identify what they know and, more importantly, what they don't know. Their motivation to solve a problem becomes their motivation to find and apply knowledge. PBL can be combined with lecture to form a hybrid model of teaching, and it can be implemented in virtually all courses and subjects.


Through problem-based learning, students can improve their problem-solving skills, research skills, and social skills. In addition, PBL benefits students in the following ways:

  • Increases motivation to learn
  • Develops critical thinking, writing, and communication skills
  • Enhances retention of information
  • Provides a model for lifelong learning
  • Demonstrates the power of working cooperatively


The primary role of an instructor is to facilitate group process and learning—not to provide easy answers. By relinquishing the control of answers, instructors are able to learn with students, and they often find renewed interest and excitement in teaching. The challenge in teaching a PBL model is creating strong problems that lead students to realize the intended course learning outcomes.


How can I get my students to think? is a question asked by many faculty, regardless of their disciplines. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to “learn to learn,” working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students’ curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources.

Barbara Duch