Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning  – often called PBL – is a student-centered teaching approach, where students learn about specific topics, concepts, or theories by working together in groups to solve problem-based questions often based on real world-situation. PBL can be introduced in most classrooms and teaching situations, however, it is most commonly known for project-based learning segments that stretch over multiple classes or even semesters. PBL is usually centered on open-ended questions and can therefore support students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and analysis skills.

What are the benefits of problem-based learning?
  • Students learn to work in groups and in teams
  • Students are motivated to work with problems from the real world
  • It’s a good opportunity to introduce guest lectures from business and society
  • Students learn how to apply theoretic frameworks and concepts to specific cases and/or problems
  • Students’ problem-solving skills are put to the test
  • Critical thinking and analysis skills will be central
Introducing PBL to your students

If you want to introduce problem-based learning to your classroom, there are a couple of things you could consider. First, it takes time to re-design your course to a problem-based teaching design – therefore, you should set enough time aside to evaluate and re-design your course syllabus, teaching methods, and exam formats. Second, be sure to explore whether your students have any experience with PBL or whether they would need any guidance. There are a lot of useful resources that you can provide your students with – see below. Third, make sure that the problems you either present students with or that they develop themselves, are rooted in the real world and that students can use and apply the theories and concepts learned in class to solve the problem.


Duch, B. J., Groh, S. E, & Allen, D. E. (Eds.). (2001). The power of problem-based learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Problem-Based Learning, Cornell University (link)

Problem-Based Learning, Illinois University (link)

Problem-Based Learning for Students, Maastricht University (link)

The PBL Model, Aalborg University (link)