Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title An Exercise in Problem-Based Learning
Originator Chris Lee
Department School of Applied Science, University of Glamorgan, UK
Tel. +44 (0)1443 482469
Fax +44 (0)1443 482285

Problem-based learning is characterised by a collection of carefully constructed problems presented to a small group of students. The problems usually consist of descriptions of sets of observable phenomena or events that need explanation. Essential to the method is that the students' prior knowledge (in itself) is insufficient for them to understand the problem in depth. P.B.L. is stated as being an ideal learning method for the acquisition of knowledge and Key Skills.

Students are divided into groups and each group is given a problem. This problem may be in the form of experimental data; a video extract; a newspaper / scientific article; a paper case history; or, in the case of medical schools, a patient.

Progression is through seven steps:

  1. clarification of terms and concepts,
  2. 'brainstorming' the nature of the problem,
  3. assembly into problem areas,
  4. definition of problems / issues,
  5. formulation of learning questions,
  6. acquisition of knowledge by self-directed learning,
  7. reporting back and solution.



P.B.L. postulates that:

A Problem Based Learning (P.B.L.) Exercise in Forensic Geology.
The students are asked to assist in a (fictional!) case where a body has been found and murder is suspected. Evidence, in the form of hand specimens and thin sections is presented to the students. More or less information may be given depending on the time available and / or level of students' knowledge. For example, if the students' note-taking skills need developing then the brief could be read out (in the manner of a verbal police report). If the students' mineral identification skills need developing then the samples could be provided without the annotation.


Group work
Independent learning
Problem-based learning

Keywords can be used to search for specific topics
Abstracts are also listed by Originator

Resource Database Home Page

Page created 5 June 2000
Database pages maintained by Phil Gravestock