The idea problem-based pedagogy (PBL) is an idea that needs to be practiced more in all rungs of education. PBL has been described as a learning style that utilizes real world problems and solutions as teaching tools. For example if a teacher wanted to teach a student about engineering, a real world problem such as overflowing levees in New Orleans or a weak bridge over the New York Harbor may be introduced as a starting point for the students to examine and try to find an engineering solution for. I do say students, (plural), because I believe, along with others, that PBL is at its best when students are asked to work together in order to solve certain real world problems. PBL is a way to teach, train, and mold minds to interpret, analyze, and solve real world problems.
I do want to add a personal note to this post about PBL. I was a bartender in Blacksburg for 15 years prior to returning to Virginia Tech to earn a degree in Communications. I saw student after student come into the bar and seemingly have no idea of how things work. Students using parent’s credit cards, students not knowing what running a tab meant, and even students not being able to add tips to tabs (or not even knowing what a tip was). These students who were probably as ‘book smart’ as they come could not maneuver through simple real world tasks. This is where I believe PBL can and does add value to education. What good is it if you can memorize the pages of a book or a map or a theory, if you can not start your own bank account, pay rent on time, or understand how to turn on power to your house. PBL adds a dimension to education that can not be learned through just books and theories.
PBL learning can increase the participation of students in classrooms, build skills that are practical for the real world, help students to learn cooperation, and expose students to life outside of the school walls. A major component that is missing with education, from the early years onto college, is the skill of critical thinking. Critical thinking is a crucial asset that needs to be possessed by any student that is seeking employment after college. PBL creates and helps to maintain critical thinking in students no matter what level of education. PBL, when practiced effectively, can add depth to any student’s education. A depth that will only be beneficial in the long run.