Problem Based Learning

Motivating students is an important first step in teaching and, according to Dr. Don Woods, one of McMaster's authorities on Problem Based Learning, PBL creates motivation. This motivation could result from an intrinsic quality of problems, or, as Dr. Rosemary Leary states, "Problems themselves appeal to the human desire for resolution and harmony..."

Dr. Woods' research also shows that by using PBL, students develop skills that serve them well in future learning and in the workplace.

What is PBL?
A broad definition of PBL used by Dr. Woods is, "PBL is any learning environment in which the problem drives the learning. "

Where does PBL fit into the teaching and learning spectrum?

The diagram below uses a dichotomy to conceptualize a range of teaching options---who takes the initiative for learning, the teacher or the learner.


  • Books
  • Articles
  • Action Research
  • General
  • External Links

Preparing for PBL (Third edition, 2006) (pdf) -Dr. Don Woods provides background, instructions and a wide array of forms and resources for implementing PBL.

The Tutor in Problem Based Learning: A Novice's Guide . (pdf) -Dr. Allyn Walsh provides a comprehensive introduction to PBL with a section specifically for tutors.

The McMaster Problem Solving Program . -Dr. Don Woods provides an outline of this program with many live links to lessons constructed to provide problem solving skills.

How do you design a case? (pdf) -Steps to follow in designing a case

Checklist: Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Case (pdf) is a tool to review and revise cases

Video (WMV format) created by Don Woods introducing PBL which includes an example of a real student led PBL group discussion.

Writing Problems
Written by P.K. Rangachari. Includes examples.

Cooperative Learning
Also links to PBL.

Maricopa College's PBL site

Lesson plans from Maricopa College

University of Delaware's PBL site

The PBLNetwork engages in PBL research, provides a centre for information exchange, teacher training and curriculum development.