February 13 2014

Problem-based Learning

What's in it for Students?

What's in it for YOU?

Jon Sticklen and Claudia Vergara

Thursday, February 13, 2014

11:30 - 1:30

3405 Engineering

Dean's Conference Room


Lunch Provided

Participants should bring their (charged) laptops to the workshop sessions if possible. There will not be power at each table, but if you bring your laptop charged, the session is short enough that you will not have difficulty.


Problem based learning is becoming both a ubiquitous phase and an overloaded concept. Many educators have started with a loose idea of "problem-inspired instruction" and crafted an implementation that sufficed in their environments. We will try to clear some of the fog of conversation around PBL. Going further, we will motivate the workshop by first describing the origins of PBL - what were educators looking for that drove them towards PBL, and what is the relevance today especially for STEM educators.

The core of this workshop will be an active learning exploration using PBL by each participant. Participants are expected to attend the workshop with a particular class and a particular "unit" of the class in mind. Participants should plan on bringing their laptop to the session if possible. Small groups will be preset; in each group, participants will create a vision for turning the course unit they come with into a PBL experience for their students.

Take aways from the workshop will be initial experience in:

Center for Engineering Education Research

  • a first exposure to participating in a PBL exercise

  • determining what constitutes a good PBL "problem"

  • being able to scaffold students into the problem so that they can "fly" on their own

  • assessment strategies for PBL exercises

About Jon Sticklen and Claudia Vergara

Jon Sticklen is Director of the Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER), College of Engineering, MSU, and Director of the Applied Engineering Sciences (AES) undergrad degree program in Engineering. In AES, he has been developing PBL as the main driver in selected AES courses.

Claudia Vergara is a Senior Researcher in CEER, and has studied PBL approaches extensively of the last few years.


Very short, selected references list (a Google Scholar search for "problem based learning" yields about 2,800,000 hits...)

Hmelo, Cindy E., Gerald S. Gotterer and John D. Bransford. "A Theory-Driven Approach to Assessing the Cognitive Effects of Pbl." Instructional Science 25, no. 6 (November 1997) (2004): 387-408.

Kek, M.Y.C.A. and H. Huijser. "The Power of Problem‐Based Learning in Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s Digital Futures in Today’s Classrooms." Higher Education Research & Development 30, no. 3 (2011): 329-341.

Kolmos, Anette and Erik de Graaff. "Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning in Engineering Education – Merging Models." In Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research, edited by Aditya Johri and Barbara M. Olds: Cambridge University Press (December 31, 2013), 2013.

Mosgaard, Mette and Claus Spliid Spliid. "Evaluating the Impact of a Pbl-Course for First-Year Engineering Students Learning through Pbl-Projects." In 2011 2nd International Conference on Wireless Communication, Vehicular Technology, Information Theory and Aerospace & Electronic Systems Technology 1-6, 2011.

Savery, John R and Thomas M Duffy. "Problem Based Learning: An Instructional Model and Its Constructivist Framework." Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design 135, (1996): 14.

Savin-Baden, Maggi. Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education: Untold Stories: Society for Research into Higher Education London, England, 2000.

Stappenbelt, B. "Establishing a Project-Based Learning Environment for First-Year Engineering Students." (2009).

Thomas, R.E. "Problem‐Based Learning: Measurable Outcomes." Medical Education 31, no. 5 (1997): 320-329.

Tiwari, Agnes, Sophia Chan, Emmy Wong, David Wong, Caroline Chui, Alan Wong and Niv Patil. "The Effect of Problem-Based Learning on Students’ Approaches to Learning in the Context of Clinical Nursing Education." Nurse education today 26, no. 5 (2006): 430-438.

Yadav, Aman, Dipendra Subedi, Mary A. Lundberg and Charles Bunting. "Problem-Based Learning: Influence on Students’ Learning in an Electrical Engineering Course." Journal of Engineering Education 100, no. 2 (2011): 253-280.

Presentation Slides and Handouts