Information has a way of implanting itself firmly and permanently in our brains, when we can relate to it. Educational institutions use day-to-day problems to teach very effectively. It’s called problem-based learning (PBL). Originally adopted to make medical school programs more interesting, it has since been used in everything from K-12 programs to corporate training. Let’s concern ourselves with the latter. In a corporate setting, an open-ended problem is presented to the learners, who, with the help of a variety of resources and under the guidance of a facilitator, must come up with a plausible solution to the problem.
I firmly believe that problem-based learning is essential in corporate training. I have 5 reasons outlined here to back me up, but if you look at them they are all tied together, with one reason leading to the next.
1. Problem-based learning aligns with adult learning principles
According to Robert Knowles, adult learning is goal-oriented, and adults learn best when there is a need to learn. They have an increased motivation to learn when they know that a particular training will help them solve a problem they are currently faced with or will be faced with in the future. A problem-based approach is therefore the way to approach corporate training. However, this is just the first step to get adult learners to approach training willingly.
2. Problem-based learning makes use of a learner-centric and learner-driven approach
Because the problem presented is an open-ended one, there are several ways to solve it, with each solution leading to a different set of outcomes. Learners must understand the problem and try to find the best solution. In the process, they:
- Develop a strong learning foundation
- Develop, build, and apply newly-acquired skills
- Experience both success and failure
- Learn to think in more ways than one
- Find innovative ways to counteract existing problems
3. Problem-based learning is highly effective and has a better outcome
The outcome is brilliant – well-trained employees who are far more able to face day-to-day problems at the workplace, than any text-book trained employee whose training has been based only on theories.
Because each employee approaches the problem in his own way, the company will be able to boast of a team of employees who think differently but are also able to work collaboratively – because that’s another thing about problem-based learning – it’s about working individually, as well as part of a team. More on this later.
4. Problem-based learning works for all types of training
Corporate training is vast and varied, yet there is not a facet of this training where problem-based learning cannot be used – from experiential leadership training to induction training that introduces new hires to workplace situations, to the training of highly specialized teams. Everyone at every level faces problems and difficulties in the workplace, and can therefore benefit from this type of learning.
5. Problem-based learning fosters team-building
Let’s go back and talk about training a team. Training multi-cultural groups via problem-based learning helps employees get used to working in a multi-cultural environment. Although diversity in the group may hamper coming to a quick solution, one is eventually reached. In the process, the group will also:
- Learn to put aside their differences
- Understand the way other cultures work
- Find a way to work together as a team and come up with a solution
These are my 5 reasons to build corporate training around a problem-based learning approach. Build a corporate training program based on PBL and you will realize that you have built yourself a very highly-organized, highly-functional team, and in the process, you would have also improved your company’s work ethos and learning culture – all for the better.