Problem-based approaches to learning have a long history. They areone of many instructional approaches that situate learning in a meaning-ful task, such as case-based instruction and project-based learning. In thetraditions of Kilpatrick (1918, 1921) and Dewey (1938), these approachesargue for the importance of practical experience in learning. Problem-basedlearning (PBL) is part of this tradition of meaningful, experiential learning.In PBL, students learn by solving problems and reﬂecting on their experi-ences (Barrows and Tamblyn, 1980). PBL is well suited to helping studentsbecome active learners because it situates learning in real-world problemsand makes students responsible for their learning. It has a dual emphasis onhelpinglearnersdevelopstrategiesandconstructknowledge(CognitionandTechnology Group at Vanderbilt [CTGV], 1997; Collins
, 1989; Hmeloand Ferrari, 1997; Kolodner
, 2000; Greeno
, 1996). PBL is of increasing interest to K–16 ed-ucators as demonstrated by widespread publication of books written aboutPBL (e.g., Duch
, 2001; Torp and Sage, 2002). Educators are interestedinPBLbecauseofitsemphasisonactive,transferablelearninganditspoten-tialformotivatingstudents.ThisarticleﬁrstdescribesPBLanddistinguishesit from other experiential approaches to learning. Second, it discusses thegoalsofPBL.Third,thePBLtutorialprocessisdiscussedindetail.Next,thearticle examines what we have learned about PBL. In particular, this sec-tion examines the research regarding the goals of PBL. Finally, the articlediscusses the research limitations and avenues for the future.
PBL AND OTHER EXPERIENTIAL APPROACHES
PBL is focused, experiential learning organized around the investiga-tion, explanation, and resolution of meaningful problems (Barrows, 2000;Torp and Sage, 2002). In PBL, students work in small collaborative groupsand learn what they need to know in order to solve a problem. The teacheracts as a facilitator to guide student learning through the learning cycle de-picted in Fig. 1. In this cycle, also known as the PBL tutorial process, thestudents are presented with a problem scenario. They formulate and ana-lyze the problem by identifying the relevant facts from the scenario. Thisfact-identiﬁcation step helps students represent the problem. As studentsunderstand the problem better, they generate hypotheses about possiblesolutions. An important part of this cycle is identifying knowledge deﬁcien-cies relative to the problem. These knowledge deﬁciencies become what areknownasthelearningissuesthatstudentsresearchduringtheirself-directedlearning (SDL). Following SDL, students apply their new knowledge and