Problem-Based Learning

The other PBL

What is Problem-Based Learning?

Problem-based learning was once used interchangeably with project-based learning. Both are student-centered learning. Other similarities include: real-world connections and self and peer assessment.


In problem-based learning students work together to solve real problems that help develop knowledge in a particular course along with problem-solving, reasoning, communication, and self-assessment skills. It begins with a problem designed by the teacher who then models and coaches students through the research process. The student defines the problem, designs a plan to solve the problem, gathers information, constructs possible solutions, and selects (and presents) the best fit.


According to the Buck Institute for Education, problem-based learning is a smaller subset of project-based learning.


Each PBL has a different history with Problem-based learning starting with medical schools in the 1960s. Medical schools would use case studies or simulations.



Steps to PBL

1. What is the problem?

  • Know/Need to Know
  • Define the problem

2. Gather information

  • Share information
  • What are possible solutions?

3. Solution?

  • What is the best solution?
  • Present

Where can you use PBL?

Problem-based learning may be used in most if not all curriculum areas.


  • What really happened at the Little Big Horn?
  • Planning a city/community
  • What is causing the coral reefs to die off?
  • Math classes are most familiar with using PBL
  • A new countries government? Which is best?

Reinventing a Public High School: A Case Study in Integrating Problem-Based Learning

Sammamish High School in Bellevue, Washington is transitioning to a completely problem-based learning curriculum.
Reinventing a Public High School with Problem-Based Learning

Problem-Based Learning in Texas

Problem-Based Learning in Texas