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Destination Problem-Based Learning

Destination: Problem-Based Learning (rocket rising towards sun)The Destination: Problem-Based Learning (DPBL) project at the Experiential Learning Center at Truckee Meadows Community College advocates for and supports problem-based learning in STEM classrooms nationally.We are funded by the National Science Foundation.

See Scenarios to access our FREE library of scenarios.

See Tools to access our FREE Scenario & Assessment Building tools

We work with our PBL and ATE allies to develop professional development opportunities including the SC ATE National Resource Center‘s  Roots and Wings Instructional Leadership Institute inCharleston SC, the  Pacific Region Learning Summit (PRLS) at Leeward Community College, HI and the Mid Pacific ICT Center’s Summer Faculty Professional Development Week in San Francisco, CA.   This project builds on the work of our previous projects in scenario-based learning (aka PBL with scenarios or SBL) at Foothill-DeAnza Community College District.

What are Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Problem-Based Learning with Scenarios (SBL)?

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) has many variations in content and delivery (Barrows, 2000; Savin-Baden, 2011). Problem based learning is about creating self-directed, self-managing learners. PBL challenges students to solve the real-world problems, create the deliverables, and present report or results that match what our students will face in their professional careers.

How do we know they are real world problems? Because we ask industry to review the tasks, be involved in their development, be present at the students’ presentation of results, and otherwise be part of the educational experience for the students.

Students usually work in teams. The tasks might take a week or it might take all semester. The key is that the students are presented with the task before they are presented with lectures containing solutions.The then, facilitated by the instructor, find their way to building the knowledge they need to deliver their solutions.

Why PBL?

PBL provides students with the opportunity to acquire, practice, and improve their employability skills/21st C capabilities/soft skills they will need to succeed in the rapidly changing world of work–those skills we have all heard and read about in reports from industry, government, researchers, and our advisory boards. The world of work–the pace of technical change, relationship of employers and employees, the very jobs that are out there now and will be out there 10 years from now are different. The competition is global. The skills needed to succeed and persist in technical careers is different. PBL is a tool faculty can use to support their students in acquiring those skills and being employment ready.

How do you do PBL?

In our problem-based learning with scenario model the  problem is co-authored by faculty and employers and does not have one correct solutions, students work in teams to collaboratively discover at least part of the solution, faculty provide resources to support the students’ work, and a debrief provides students and faculty the opportunity to reflect on their learning experience. In 2012-2013 our PBL Hawaii cohort is developing Standards of Practice for teaching and learning with PBL (see  http://pblhi.weebly.com/index.html ). In Spring 2013 we developed and published ourPBL Assessment Builder (in Tools on this website).

Watch this slideshow for an introduction to SBL and PBL:


Barrows, H. (2000). Foreword. In D. E. Evenson and C. E. Hmelo (Eds.), Problem-Based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions, (pp vii-ix). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Evenson, D.E. and Hmelo, C.E. (2000). Problem-Based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Savin-Baden, M. (2011). Codes, guidelines and missing treasure: Piracy and Problem-based learning. Keynote presentation 3rd Symposium on Problem-based Learning. Coventry University 28-29 November.


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