PBL is a label covering several learning methods that share a common
idea where the learners are presented with a problem that they need to
solve with the skills and knowledge gained from the course.
The problem does not have to be a problem; it can also be a posed
question, a contradiction, an unexplained phenomenon, or something
that makes the learners wonder.
While there are several different and unique ways of applying PBL,
there are five specific approaches that show how to apply PBL to most
1. Lecture-based cases
The teacher presents a case to provide perspective on the lecture and
show how it can be used in practice. The students do not need to
reflect on the case or acquire information independently, as the
teacher is going over the case for them.
2. Case-based lectures
The students are presented with one or more cases that will be used to
highlight the information in an upcoming lecture. The learners are to
examine the cases before the lecture with the knowledge they have
before the lecture, and then the teacher will go over these cases
using the new information at the lecture.
3. Case method
The students are given a full case, with all the relevant information
ahead of the lecture and must set up their own hypotheses about the
case and analyze it. This analysis of the case is then discussed in
class with the teacher giving feedback on the work done by the
students. Through this discussion, the students reflect on the case
with the aid of the teacher using the methods and information that the
teacher intended to introduce.
4. Modified case-based
This method has the students go over a case, much like the Case
method, but the students are allowed and expected to choose their own
approaches and methods. Usually the students work in small groups and
discuss the case internally before the lecture where they discuss it
with the class and teacher.
The students are presented with a problem, which they must form their
own hypotheses about and use their problem solving skills to find a
solution. The teacher’s role is to advise the students in their
information search and can try to remind the students what they’ve
already learned and how it could be used with their current
hypothesis. The major difference with this compared to the previous
four is that in this approach, it is the students controlling what the
hypothesis is, and how to approach it.
A variant of the problem-based approach is the closed loop/reiterative
problem based approach. In addition to everything from the
problem-based approach, the students are asked to reflect on how they
reasoned through the problem and if they would have done it
differently with what they’ve learned from the problem solving. The
cycle of solving a problem, and reflecting on it and finding a new
solution can be repeated many times, each time adding a new layer of