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Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning - page 9 / 13





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John R. Savery

Project-based learning is similar to problem-based learning in that the learning activi- ties are organized around achieving a shared goal (project). This instructional approach was described by Kilpatrick (1921), as the Project Method and elaborated upon by several researchers, including Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, and Palinscar (1991). Within a project-based approach learners are usually provided with specications for a desired end product (build a rocket, design a website, etc.) and the learning process is more oriented to following correct procedures. While working on a project, learners are likely to encounter several “problems” that generate “teachable moments” (see Lehman, George, Buchanan, & Rush, this issue). Teachers are more likely to be instructors and coaches (rather than tutors) who provide expert guidance, feedback and suggestions for “better” ways to achieve the nal product. The teaching (modeling, scaolding, ques- tioning, etc.) is provided according to learner need and within the context of the project. Similar to case-based instruction learners are able to add an experience to their memory that will serve them in future situations.

While cases and projects are excellent learner-centered instructional strategies, they tend to diminish the learner’s role in setting the goals and outcomes for the “problem.” When the expected outcomes are clearly dened, then there is less need or incentive for the learner to set his/her own parameters. In the real world it is recognized that the abil- ity to both dene the problem and develop a solution (or range of possible solutions) is important.

Problem-based Learning vs. Inquiry-based Learning

These two approaches are very similar. Inquiry-based learning is grounded in the philoso- phy of John Dewey (as is PBL), who believed that education begins with the curiosity of the learner. Inquiry-based learning is a student-centered, active learning approach focused on questioning, critical thinking, and problem solving. Inquiry-based learning activities begin with a question followed by investigating solutions, creating new knowledge as information is gathered and understood, discussing discoveries and experiences, and reecting on new-found knowledge. Inquiry-based learning is frequently used in science education (see, for example, the Center for Inquiry-Based Learning http://www.biology. duke.edu/cibl/) and encourages a hands-on approach where students practice the scien- tic method on authentic problems (questions). The primary dierence between PBL and inquiry-based learning relates to the role of the tutor. In an inquiry-based approach the tutor is both a facilitator of learning (encouraging/expecting higher-order thinking) and a provider of information. In a PBL approach the tutor supports the process and expects learners to make their thinking clear, but the tutor does not provide information related to the problem—that is the responsibility of the learners. A more detailed discussion comparing and contrasting these two approaches would be an excellent topic for a future article in this journal.

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning

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