Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to “learn to learn” by working cooperatively in groups as they seek solutions to real world problems. PBL is an active and iterative process where a complex problem is used to engage students’ curiosity, critical and analytical thinking, and research skills as they seek answers. Students’ motivation to learn and retention of information are enhanced as they work on problem-solving. Social skills, communication, and writing skills are also utilized. Teachers facilitate the learning process by creating strong problems that lead students to realize the intended course learning outcomes. Teachers also facilitate the group process by identifying groups, establishing expectations for group assignments, and assisting students in their research. Community members and scientists may be involved in PBL as “researchers in residence.”

Evidence Base for Problem-Based Learning:

Articles and Websites

The Buck Institute for Education: This website has a focus on Project-Based Learning and provides a host of resources for educators along with research on inquiry-based learning strategies.

Problem-based learning at University of Delaware: is part of the Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education at the University of Delaware. The PBL Clearinghouse provides multiple resources on PBL.


Amador, Jose et. al. (2007) The Practice of Problem-Based Learning: A Guide to Implementing PBL in the College Classroom. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company Inc.

Barell, John. (2006) Problem-Based Learning: an Inquiry Approach, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Ronis, Diane L. Problem-Based Learning for Math & Science: Integrating Inquiry and the Internet, 2nd edition. (2007). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.