Case-based Teaching vs Problem-based Learning: What’s the Difference?

As I continue to think about my teaching philosophy and pedagogical practices, I analyzed the differences between Case-based Teaching and Problem-based learning. There are multifarious ways to teach and learn, and I know this because I have engaged as a learner outside of these aforementioned styles.

Case-based learning includes teaching using case studies from real-world events, which provide examples for students to help them conceptualize how problems and solutions manifest in the world. Some examples of implementing CBL could include activities such as role-play, interactive games, or small group discussions.

Problem-based learning is centered on hands-on and active-learning activities to investigate resolutions for real-world problems. PBL facilitates an opportunity for students to derive a solution rather than memorizing answers to a problem given to them by a teacher. Students are challenged to draw from their existing knowledge-base to apply that knowledge to a solution. However, there is criticism about PBL with the concern that in this way of knowing a thing, students cannot determine what is important. Also, in preparation for PBL, teachers spend more time planning and executing PBLs than other teaching styles that impact the possible volume of material that can be covered.

After understanding CBL and PBL, I am more inclined to use PBL in the classroom because based on my experience in industry/the real-world resolutions to complex problems come about through derivation. Problems are often similar but rarely the same and deriving a solution using the knowledge you already possess allows for improvement when problems are similar. When we broach brand new problems, there is an opportunity for invention. Our interactions with the world are almost always messy and require us to think critically, which is the intent of PBL. I understand that criticism exists for PBL because education has mostly conditioned us to learn assuming a dichotomy constantly exists where there is a right vs wrong in every scenario—as if there is some answer sheet to all of our problems.

I am somewhat biased in my disinterest in case studies based on my own experiences as a student. Often I could not conceptualize the events in case studies because I could not connect them to my own experiences, which often occluded me from processing what was to be learned from the example.

Maybe my perspective on CBL vs PBL will shift as I delve deeper into this Contemporary Pedagogy course.


Problem-Based Learning (PBL)


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