Problem-based Learning in Secondary Schools

As student-centric study modules grow popular, so do problem-based learning techniques in academic institutions.¬†Problem-based learning module being a subset of Project-Based Learning, can help expand the thinking capabilities of students, especially their critical thinking skills while also helping them pick up useful skills and knowledge in the process. ¬† Students do not just stop at what they are being taught in a lecture format, but also question and analyze it, which can help broaden the learning capabilities beyond the confines of what a textbook has to offer. They naturally hone their analytic skills in the process, which can prove to be a valuable asset even in non-academic settings down the line. It does not come as a surprise that problem-based learning is referred to as a ‘learn to learn’ methodology, as students do not learn by rote or learn by doing, but learn so they can solve problems. This makes the learning experience both fruitful and interesting. Since they work in groups to solve the problem, it also promotes a collaborative and interactive learning experience. Let’s take a look at when and how PBL can be implemented.

How to implement PBL models

The first thing that you need to know about implementing a PBL model is that there’s more than one way to do it. For starters, you want to frame a problem that gets close to defining the type of problems that real-world professionals in the field solve on a daily basis, even if it may not be of the same level of complexity. Framing the problem is one of the most important aspects of the process, and educators can afford to get creative with the process, provided the problem is within the boundaries of question and reason. Of course the problem should be such that it has multiple answers and there are multiple ways to get to the answers. For instance, an educator teaching the concept of economics can frame a question such as- How will the upcoming budget and market situation affect your purchase? The commodity that is being purchased can be anything from real-estate assets to automobiles.

The answer itself is not as important as the thought-process, questioning and learning that occur during the process, and this is the basic premise of a problem-based learning module. Once, the problem is presented, the students can be divided into multiple groups so they can discuss the problem statement and brainstorm possible solutions. This is also when students research on the subject and exchange information with their fellow-team members, and where the actual learning occurs.

Pain points while implementing PBL techniques

No doubt, PBL techniques sound like an effective way to teach but implementing it needs quite some work on the educator’s part, as you may have already guessed. The educator needs to understand that many variables come into the picture in a PBL environment. One challenge that educators face is to ensure that the problem statement touches all the learning points that the students are expected to learn as a part of the curriculum. Also, given the time constraints and the vast curriculum, educators may find it difficult to implement a PBL technique in each and every concept that is being taught. Educators may also have difficulties framing a PBL module for certain subjects like English. Educators should evaluate if a PBL technique has more value to offer over tradition teaching style, and if it is a good fit before they decide when and where it can be implemented. The next step is to assist students while they brainstorm solutions. Educators should primarily act as mediators while implementing a PBL assignment, but they should also be able to gauge when students need a small forward nudge when they are stuck in a tricky spot. Classroom management is another pain point that PBL may present, depending on the size of the class.¬† Many of these pain points can be addressed in secondary school programs such as those that incorporate innovation lab models.

Students get to participate in an exclusive program that goes beyond the traditional curriculum, wherein they meet professionals from the field. They work with a team to gain hands-on experience on the subject, whether it is by designing or utilizing tools to find a solution. Since the Design Studio focuses on STEM areas of learning, students have a holistic learning experience by understanding how they are interlinked with each other. This when combined with the core curriculum, can allow students to get a better grasp of the subject with real-world experience.