Problem based learning is an angle of learning focusing mainly on the process of problem solving and acquiring of knowledge. The approach has also elements of inquiry when the learners are active in creating problems during the process of learning. Problem based learning has the following segments : identifying the problem at hand, determining the sources of information for solving the problem, collecting and analyzing the initial evidences, continuous assessment of the problem solving process, plan on how to classify the information and reflections on the efforts.
In a problem based learning technique students come together and discuss complex and challenging problems collaboratively in order to come up with a workable solution. Problem based learning is where students engage knowledge from various disciplines with an aim of finding solutions to real life problems. The morale to solve the problem becomes the morale to learn.
Historically, problem based learning originated during a curriculum reform by the school of medical at Case Western university at around 1950. The medical and the health science departments continue to improve the practice of problem based learning. These were well articulated by the medical faculty of Mc Master University of Canada which used small groups and tutorial processes to discuss medical solutions. Having been tested in these institutions and found to be effective it becomes a relevant tool for success in the academic world.
The traditional education system that students go through starting from the kindergarten through to the higher institutions of learning, produce students who are bored with their education and do not really have a good grasp of the training they went through during their academic life. This is mainly because they are faced with very big volumes of information to memorize much of which seem irrelevant in a real life situation. Majority of the traditional learners often forget what they learn in class and the little that they can remember if often, irrelevant in the business world.
The traditional learning system also does not prepare its students to have a team work spirit in their various destinations in life. These makes problem based learning very relevant in a modern academic world. Research in the field of education reveals that lectures do not lead to retention of knowledge even though both the students and the teachers put a lot of effort during the process. Most of the problems learned during the lectures are often forgotten and the natural problem solving abilities become impaired. Motivation levels in these classes are often also very low. The major advantage of problem based learning is that students genuinely enjoy the process.
It is also challenging to the students as they have critics of their ideas and therefore are able to come up with fine tuned ideas to solve the problem.
There are three main phases of problem based learning these include; Teacher directed approach, Teacher-student shared inquiry and finally Student directed inquiry. Teacher directed approach or strategy is where the teacher designs instructions and structures of the lessons in a straightforward and predictable manner. The knowledge is usually centrally centered with the teacher or the instructor.
The teacher has full control of the content and the skills to be learned, the instructor is always in control of the pace and the rhythm of the classes. This approach is also referred to as directed approach it has several importance and significances. To start with it allows the lecturer or tutor to deliver new skills to learners using a relatively short period of time. Teacher directed approach is highly academics focused, because the teacher has a prime purpose of setting the goals and outlines of lessons to the students. The teacher develops a system where he is able to monitor the progress of the learners and give feedback to them regarding their performance.
This approach is also relevant because it is based on behavioraslistic learning guide line, such as ensuring student attention during the learning process, reinforcing accurate responses, providing correct answers to problems and practicing on how to give correct answers. The approach has the nature of increasing the contact hours with the instructor, or the amount of learning hours during which the students perform the tasks and achieve success at a very high rate. It is also argued that students learn a lot of the basic knowledge when they receive instructions directly from the teacher.
This approach calls on the teacher to capture students attention and reinforce accurate responses in their learning culture, provide a report on the student progress regarding the covered sessions in the classes and explore the possibilities of increasing the time spent by the students in learning the course content. The main objective of the model is to cultivate skills in the students and help them master relevant knowledge in the business world. It is believed that this approach is the best in teaching mathematical calculations and procedures, decoding and differentiating between facts and opinions. It is also very helpful in learning science facts and concepts, foreign language and vocabulary.
It also entails planning and implementation of the instructions formulated by the teacher, first the lecture has to decide on the content of the course and the grading system for the content of the course.
The teacher will also have to determine what the student has to do in order to learn a technique to express what they have learned during the knowledge acquisition period.
Teacher directed approach is also a very efficient way of introducing students to a new topic. The teacher can use the opportunity provided with these approach to introduce a new learning area and link the new topic with the knowledge that the students already have. The lecturing time is also ideal for stimulating the student’s interest on the topic being discussed (Barell pg34 2006). Another importance is that the teachers are able to integrate knowledge from different sources or fields and deliver them to students. Students also have a chance of getting clarification from the teachers where they do not understand.
The student teacher share inquiry. Shared inquiry is a unique method of learning in which the students search for correct responses to the questions or problem raised by a text. The success or the failure of this method depends on the relationship between the leader who is often the teacher and the students. Teacher student shared inquiry the teachers do not play the role of imparting or providing information to the students or present their own opinion, but mainly provide guidance to the participants in order for them to reach their own conclusion. They do these by asking questions and following purposefully what the participants are doing.
Teacher student shared inquiry majorly promotes civil discourse. Using these approach the participants train themselves to give full consideration to the ideas of their colleges , they get to appreciate the importance of weighing the opposing merits of their colleges and modify their initial stands so that they can stand the test of evidence in the information at hand. They are also provided with a platform to gain a lot of experience from each other during the debates that go on during such process. The student communication level also improves greatly because they are able to handle complex ideas these expands their own thoughts.
We are able to conclude safely that shared inquiry promotes thoughtful dialogue and open discussion making the participants able and confident and above all lifelong readers.
Student directed inquiry is described as drawing attention away from teacher presented knowledge to student learning through active involvement. Student directed inquiry enables students to actively involve themselves on fact finding mission which in turn enables them to fully understand the contents of the courses there are being thought. The students purpose to carry out investigations, conduct their own research, solve problems together and dig out evidences related to the topic of study. The students are responsible for planning the lessons, making decisions, posing questions and assembling the relevant materials for the study. All the aspects of these approach is student centered he is responsible for initiation of actions and setting of goals and designing relevant study schemes. Most importantly student directed inquiry promotes creation of knowledge through experimental learning which may also lead to inventions.
The major differences in this phase are evident in numerous ways. Generally student directed inquiry focuses on the ability of the student, to be able to identify their own academic needs. Once they gain this ability they can be able to initiate their own learning schedule. This type of learning model majorly emphasize on self management (Barell pg459 2006). This type of modern is also perceived to only be able to be practiced by gifted students although it is encouraged that all learners are in a position to use it effectively.
Problem based learning is an opportunity for students to develop a sense of responsibility for their studies. When this attitude is fully cultivated the students are able to develop very sophisticated cognitive skills. These includes having the ability to identify problems, being able to come up with an hypotheses, development mechanisms, creating an inquiry plan , grading the identified hypotheses according to the available evidence and most importantly dealing with uncertainty. The learners also need to work as a team in their groups, develop effective communication and take active roles during the discussions.
This learning approach proves to use that the contact time between the students and the learners is vital for accumulation and creation of knowledge as a result they are able to have successful outcomes in their academic endeavors.
The major difference between teacher directed approach and self teacher shared inquiry is the way in which the group members interact with each other. In a shared inquiry students and the leader meet face to face and discuss things almost at the same level because no one provides the final decision on the subject matter. While in a teacher directed model the teacher is at a higher level of communication and therefore they take instructions from the leader who is the teacher. The two phases of problem base learning do not require a student to be gifted in order to perform as opposed to student inquiry phase which needs some degree of intelligence for starters.
The traditional education system has worked in such a way that it down plays the process of problem based learning especially the self directed inquiry segment. These are because majority of the students are less prone to being curious and asking questions as they move up the academic ladder. In a typical class, students learn not to ask a lot of questions instead they listen to the instructor and repeat what they already know and the expected answers. When closely examined, it has also been discovered that the process is frustrated mainly because a lot of students do not understand the meaning of self directed inquiry they rarely follow the correct procedure when carrying out the process therefore ending up with little information to solve the given problems.
Some of the outstanding benefits of problem solving inquiry are: there is retention of the gathered information these is because one is able to memorize the facts and information learnt during the studying or learning process. It is also trying to relay information to the educators that they should understand that they need to go beyond accumulation of information and move to another level of useful and applicable knowledge. This process is supported mainly by inquiry learning which a component of problem based learning approach is. It is argued that initially our economy depended on the natural resources available but that statement is on its way to being wrong because today the economy depend on a workforce that works smarter therefore makes life easier.
The education system today should cultivate a culture of a need- to- know that is student centered. In this way it is much easier to come across inventions and new ideas due to the searching spirit. This approach of learning reserves the traditional approach to learning therefore nothing is lost from our culture of education rather we have improved our version of learning and enriched our culture of learning with diversity. The new approach facilitates the acquisition of learning genes in our academic spirit which will in turn push our economy to prosperity after we acquire applicable knowledge in the economy system(Barell pg45 2006). Through this process we are able to encourage competence among the students who are undertaking various courses that help drive the economy.
Students may fail to shape up their study schedules. Problem solving approach may inhibit the spirit of teachers because teacher their interaction with the students is minimized as the students move towards self management system .This approach however challenge students to engage themselves actively in solving real life problems and on the other hand forms problem solving strategies at the same time information is accumulated. The students are placed in an active role unconsciously mainly due to the fact that data is a form of learning. What is unique about them is that both the student and the teacher are responsible for generating information as opposed to the tradition learning system
Barell, John. Problem-based Learning: An Inquiry Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2006. Print.