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John R. Savery

  • Evaluation strategies which do not focus on the key learning issues and which

are implemented and acted upon far too late.

The possible sources of confusion listed above appear to hold a naïve view of the rigor re- quired to teach with this learner-centered approach. In the next section I will discuss some of the essential characteristics and features of PBL.

Characteristics of PBL

PBL is an instructional (and curricular) learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a dened problem. Critical to the success of the approach is the selec- tion of ill-structured problems (often interdisciplinary) and a tutor who guides the learning process and conducts a thorough debrieng at the conclusion of the learning experience. Several authors have described the characteristics and features required for a successful PBL approach to instruction. The reader is encouraged to read the source documents, as brief quotes do not do justice to the level of detail provided by the authors. Boud and Feletti (1997) provided a list of the practices considered characteristic of the philosophy, strategies, and tactics of problem-based learning. Duch, Groh, and Allen (2001) described the methods used in PBL and the specic skills developed, including the ability to think critically, analyze and solve complex, real-world problems, to nd, evaluate, and use appropriate learning resources; to work cooperatively, to demonstrate eective communication skills, and to use content knowledge and intellectual skills to become continual learners. Torp and Sage (2002) described PBL as focused, experiential learning organized around the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems. They describe students as engaged problem solvers, seeking to identify the root problem and the conditions needed for a good solution and in the process becoming self-directed learners. Hmelo-Silver (2004) described PBL as an instructional method in which students learn through facilitated problem solving that centers on a complex problem that does not have a single correct answer. She noted that students work in collaborative groups to identify what they need to learn in order to solve a problem, engage in self-directed learning, apply their new knowledge to the problem, and reect on what they learned and the eectiveness of the strategies employed.

On the website for the PBL Initiative (http://www.pbli.org/pbl/generic_pbl.htm) Barrows (nd) describes in detail a set of Generic PBL Essentials, reduced to bullet points below. Each of these essential characteristics has been extended briey to provide ad- ditional information and resources.

  • Students must have the responsibility for their own learning.

PBL is a learner-centered approach—students engage with the problem with

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning

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