Human beings never stop learning. Both at school; like at home, with family or on the street, with friends and other acquaintances, we can develop new knowledge useful for our daily life.
Daily situations bring knowledge, and this is taken into account by the Problem-based learning (PBL). This method aims to confront the student with real situations, to study them and, through the use of critical judgment, to learn in an autonomous and cooperative manner.
Examples of problem-based learning
The number of problematic situations that can arise is endless. In this article, we will look at 10 cases of problem-based learning and some of the concepts that allow them to be taught through them.
1. Economy: a family purchase
A family with few resources wants to buy everything they need, but without spending more than they can afford.
Students can ask several questions: What are staple foods? What are its properties? How to make the purchase as cheap as possible?
Based on these questions, they can study the nutrients in foods and determine which are edible. Outraged, this exercise leaves the possibility of doing fieldwork, going to supermarkets and comparing the prices of products.
This knowledge is useful because they learn about basic foods and can apply the new knowledge and savings strategies in their daily lives.
2. Biology: insect pest
There is an invasion of mosquitoes in a village, which affects tourism and harms the health of the inhabitants.
Some questions that students can ask themselves: How do mosquitoes reproduce? Are they typical of the region? Has there been torrential rains? Backwater? What insecticides are commonly used in the village?
From there, they can develop a plan of action to reduce the number of insects rather than thinking about how to teach locals to deal with the problem for the future.
3. Security: evacuation of an institute
An institute was the victim of a fire and the evacuation plan was a disaster: emergency doors blocked, There were flare-ups and the students inhaled a lot of smoke.
It is proposed to rework the evacuation plan to prevent this from happening again. Students may wonder what went wrong the last time, whether the emergency signs were in the right place, whether the educational staff had clear papers in the event of an evacuation …
The same student can investigate the evacuation plan for their center. Find out where the emergency exits are and learn the safety signs. They can contact the fire department and the police to tell them what to do in an emergency and what not to do.
4. Chemistry: heartburn
To understand concepts like acidity / basicity, the example of heartburn is quite common.
In the stomach there are acids that digest food, which are affected by the type of diet. Students can report when they felt this pain and what they ate when it happened to them.
They can learn more about how antacids work, make a stomach model, and add different foods to see how the acids react …
Based on this example, learn not only chemical concepts, but also good eating habits to prevent heartburn.
5. Physical: fly killer
Why is it less effective to try to kill a fly with your hand than to try to kill a fly? This question can be asked to introduce the concept of aerodynamics.
Students can try to explain why in a practical way, by making their own fly swatter and see how to make them as effective as possible.
Although this seems like a very simple example of problem-based learning, having to create a fly swatter is not an easy task if you don’t know the rationale behind its design, which allows students to experiment. and be part of their own learning.
6. Psychology: selection of hospital staff
A new hospital has been built and new staff are needed. The idea is to select new employees by managing batteries of questionnaires.
Students should research the most appropriate tests for the selection of health personnel. They should classify these questionnaires themselves and determine which ones to use for the assigned task.
In doing so, instead of having to memorize lists of quizzes, students become part of their own learning and conduct in-depth research that allows them to become familiar with different assessment tools.
7. Mathematics: playing with triangles
Instead of teaching formulas for each type of triangle, you can familiarize elementary school children with concepts such as area and perimeter by playing tangram.
Different figures are presented on the board and each child has a tangram game. Children should imitate the numbers.
Once they have learned the different types of triangles, they can introduce math concepts by looking for triangle shapes in real life and forming groups to measure the sides of each triangle. In this way, students learn in groups and interactively.
8. Mathematics: calculating heights
Instead of teaching the classic and heavy trigonometric formulas, it can be suggested to go to the street and calculate the height of buildings.
The pupils are separated into groups and each of them will have to measure the shade of the buildings and the degree of inclination. From this information, you can calculate heights, in addition to relating the new learning to real-life objects and relating it to concepts learned in previous courses: Pythagorean theorem, tilt, distance …
9. Water scarcity
In a village, there are drinking water problems. The faucet usually carries air, and if it carries water, it doesn’t come out with much pressure. Some suggest it is because a farmer in the area diverted the river to irrigate his crops, others suggest it is due to lack of water and some because it is wasted.
Knowing the problematic situation, students may wonder if the pipes are broken, if the water source is drying up …
It is also questionable whether the diverted river is really the same source of drinking water, how the sources can be improved, what to do to increase the vegetation in the area.
10. Art history: film on ancient Greece
A director wants to make a film about ancient Greece. Although the scenario is totally invented, he wants the scenery and traditions represented to be as realistic as possible.
Students act like they’re fine arts consultants. They should be documented about what buildings looked like in classical times. Read the script and find out what would be the most suitable places to represent the scenes from the film.
- Hmelo-Silver, Cindy. (2004). Problem-based learning: what and how do students learn? Journal of educational psychology. 16. 235-266.
- Ceker, E. and Ozdamli, F. (2016). Characteristics and characteristics of problem-based learning. * Cypriot Journal of Educational Sciences. 11 (4), 195-202.