Have you heard the term ‘problem-based learning’ and do you want to know how can it help you to create better learning experiences? If so, let me tell you that problem- based learning can be referred to as an approach that enables learners learn in the context of a real problem. In simple words, a problem-based approach provides learners a real life task without any fear of consequences. This approach develops the problem solving skills of participants while giving them insights into their current knowledge and the knowledge they need to develop.
Here are the core characteristics of problem-based learning:
- a) Problem-based learning takes a student-centric approach.
- b) Learning happens in small groups.
- c) The teacher is more of a facilitator or a mentor.
- d) The problem forms the basis or the stimulus to develop problem solving skills.
- e) New knowledge can be acquired through learning that is self-directed.
That was all about what does it exactly means and where it can be applied. Let’s look at how a problem-centered approach can help in better learning.
The Learner is the Producer:
The main benefit of a problem-centered approach is that it allows learners to become producers rather than consumers of knowledge. Here I would like to give an example:
A new sales representative is asked to deal with a customer as soon as he completes his training program on a new product. In a normal training where the sales rep is provided comprehensive product knowledge, he will know the product, but how will he deal with the different problems that can arise during customer interaction? How will he answer if the customer asks a question for which he has no convincing answer? Chances are, he might lose the customer.
Here problem-based learning can help by providing the learner different real life situations. We can also bundle the real life experiences as a case study and then ask him to go through them for more information; the best part of this approach is the sales rep will not have to lose a customer and he will be able to learn how to deal with such situations.
Problem-based approach is often referred to as a learner-centered approach that allows the learner conduct a thorough research, integrating theory with practice and applying knowledge to solve a particular problem. Thus, the learner is more focused on developing a viable solution by revisiting the basic concepts of various disciplines.
Cognitive Skills Are Improved:
It has also been observed that problem-based learning helps in reinforcing the self-reflective nature of leaning. It enables one sharpen his/her cognitive processing skills. Due to the way the problem is structured and the various methods used to solve it, learners get to experience real world situations.
Communication skills, reasoning abilities, and critical thinking skills of learners get enhanced greatly when using a problem-based approach. In problem-based learning, learners get to think “out of the box”, looking for the correct solution which involves communicating with group members while discussing a particular solution.
The Value of Collaboration is High:
Lastly, problem-based learning helps understand the value of collaboration. In problem-based learning, the importance of team work gets emphasized with group brainstorming, discussions and information being shared among the group members. This collaborative approach among group members encourages the sharing of ideas and solutions – and invariably a more robust solution emerges.
Thus, problem-centered learning not only helps learners be collaborators in the learning process but also gets them started toward working as a team toward a common objective. It is therefore not surprising that organizations adopt problem-based training methods as a part of team building activities or training programs. I am sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities to use problem-based learning in your organization. Please do share.