Matthew Wolfson: Problem-Based Learning in Physics


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                                          Problem-Based Learning in Physics


Welcome to Problem-Based Learning!


Problem based learning (PBL) describes a classroom environment where the learning is driven through the use of solving complex problems.These problems are posed in such a way that the students will need to seek out new information and knowledge in order to find solutions. The teacher will adopt the role of a facilitator of instruction as they guide the student's in an inquiry driven environment.

In order to use PBL effectively, it will depend on certain student characteristics and classroom culture, as well as the problem task. “Since PBL starts with a problem to be solved, students working in a PBL environment must become skilled in problem solving, creative thinking, and critical thinking” (Roh, 2003, p. 2). When knowledge or procedural skills are taught before students have gained a full understanding of the concepts, the students’ creative thinking skills will be suppressed by instruction. Rather than having a teacher provide facts and then testing the students ability to recall facts through memorization, PBL will allow students to apply knowledge to new situations. Students will need to be able to work as self-directed, active investigators and problem-solvers in small collaborative groups. Through the use of PBL students will continue to learn content while gaining important skills that not only will help them in the classroom, but these skills can transfer through many disciplines and into future careers.

Course Overview


By the end of this course participants will be able to answer the following questions:

1. What is problem-based learning?

2. Why is problem-based learning beneficial to students?

3. How do you implement problem-based learning in the classroom?

4. How do you create a classroom environment that will promote the success of the students?


Unit 1 Objective:

Students will be able to understand what problem-based learning is, and its benefits to using it in the classroom.

LESSON 1: What is Problem-Based Learning?

Lesson 1 Objective:

  • Students will be able to define problem-based learning.
  • Students will be able to identify the steps in the PBL process.

LESSON 2: What are the benefits to utilizing problem-based learning?

Lesson 2 Objective:

  • Students will be able to identify multiple benefits to using PBL in the classroom.


Unit 2 Objective:

Students will be able to create their own PBL activity for their classroom.

LESSON 3: Components and Steps in a PBL Activity

Lesson 3 Objective:

  • Students will be able to identify the steps taken in a PBL activity.

LESSON 4: Designing your own problem-based learning activity!

Lesson 4 Objective:

  • Students will be able to create their own PBL activity for their own classroom.