What is Problem-Based Learning?
Problem-Based Learning (also known as Inquiry-Based Learning) is a system of teaching that allows students to drive their own learning through problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration (Hmelo-Silver 2004). Teachers act as facilitators rather than instructors, putting students in the driver’s seat of learning. Many teachers mistakenly believe that problem-based learning and a general project are the same thing - indeed, they are not because projects are teacher-driven. With projects, teachers come up with the questions, the parameters, the products, and the assessments. Teachers create the collaboration groups as well, usually utilizing level grouping or random grouping, depending on the project. Problem-Based Learning (PBL), on the other hand, allows students to make the choices of topic, grouping, product, and assessment. Research suggests that PBL increases flexible knowledge, effective problem-solving skills, and student-directed learning skills.
How effective is PBL?
Students who participate in problem-based learning are able to retain content for longer periods and achieve a deeper understanding of that content. In addition, student motivation increased and their academic achievement rose. In addition, in specific content areas, PBL has been shown to be even more effective than traditional education methods. In fact, students who participate in PBL perform as well or better than their traditionally-educated peers on standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, and AP exams.
English & Kitsantas: Supporting Student Self-Regulated Learning in Problem- and Project-Based Learning (George Mason University)
The Buck Institute of Education - PBL & 21st Century Competencies
How can PBL meet AP/GT Standards?
Problem-Based learning is, at heart, collaborative and student-centered. Students are in the driver's seat when it comes to project design and implementation, which can be a veritable Garden of Eden for AP and GT students.
For example, in the Common Core State Standards, Comprehension and Collaboration section: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 requires that students "Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively." In a problem/project-based learning scenario, students are in close collaboration with peers to achieve a common academic goal.
For more ideas on how to incorporate PBL into your AP/GT classroom or for workable PBLs, check out the following sites:
University of Delaware Institute for Transforming University Education PBL Clearinghouse
Edutopia - Practical PBL Series: Design an Instructional Unit in Seven Phases
Faculty Focus - Problem-Based Learning: Six Steps to Design, Implement, and Assess
Edutopia - Resources for Assessment in Project-Based Learning