George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL as Problem Based Learning

PBL as Problem Based Learning

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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Well, you all know well this: facing problems in real life or schools' settings can be a very effective way to enhance learning and new solutions to problems. I think about the possibility of setting up an entire course about not-yet-solved problems, or at least problems whose solutions are already known but they are not reachable over google :) or similar. My students have unlimited access to the Internet in the classroom, so they can easily go and search for the solution. So far so good. But i want to give them problems that will sparkle their imagination and train their collaboration among peers. The ultimate goal is to propose original solutions, rather than correct solutions. The side effect could be lots of new ideas. Also, the proposed solutions might be shared and constantly updated over the Net. Tons of tools are out there to do this. Does anything like this exist already ? Any comments and suggestion is welcome. Thank you.

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Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Roberto,

I think a wiki might be the tol you are looking for. Check out our article "The Way of the Wiki: Building Online Creativity and Cooperation."

KellyAnn Bonnell's picture
KellyAnn Bonnell
STEAM Integration Manager

Toyota ran a contest last year that challenged visitors to come up with innovative ways of using their vehicle technology to better the world. While students couldn't participate in the challenge due to age, it was a great exercise in exactly this type of problem solving. Here's the link to my post about it last year

If you started with a mini project like this then you could have the students brainstorm issues that the community needs to have addressed. You might do a post it brainstorming session so kids can build on one another's ideas. Then you could use the Destination Imagination Project Outreach competition model to have students apply their efforts to a real world community challenge or two.

Robert Ryshke's picture
Robert Ryshke
Executive Director of Center for Teaching

I would look at some of the following resources for ideas on problem-based learning:

1. Emory University, CasesOnLine, at: This site has some well developed cases, mostly related to science. Good site to review.

2. Problem-based learning at Georgia Tech at:

3. Problem-based learning at the University of Delaware at:

These three sites might give you some good ideas.


Bob Ryshke
Center for Teaching

Claudio Tenreiro's picture
Claudio Tenreiro
science teacher

I have seen a different approach which is to give them some problems that you know do not have a solution, or at least not one solution and you explore the best analysis and creative attempt to find a possible scenario where the problem could be handled (limiting boundary conditions, reducing dimensions, and so on). I will try to find one reference of this, I believe there is one in Japan which is in my mind.

Hans Albanese's picture
Hans Albanese
English Language Arts teacher in Japan, Course Supervisor (past)


You also might consider letting the students find problems for themselves. For example, you could put them in small groups and have each group brainstorm some possible problems. Then they could choose one local problem. Once they have chosen a problem, you could then decided if that problem is suitable or not based on your goals for this project.

The skill to find problems is important also, so this might be good practice for them, depending on your goals.

Roberto Catanuto's picture
Roberto Catanuto
High School Math, Physics and CS teacher, Switzerland

Good, let me know the reference if you happen to find it.

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