Theory Behind PBL

Purpose of this Site

What is PBL?

Why PBL?


PBL in the classroom

Group Dynamics

Individual Roles

Role of instructor

How to do PBL

Example Problems


Schools using PBL

PBL at Stanford

PBL Organizations

Ways to learn PBL

PBL can be thought of as a combination of cognitive and social
theories, as developed by Piaget and Vygotsky,
respectively. The major points of each of these theories are
outlined in the table below.

Cognitive Constructivism (Piaget)
Social Constructivism (Vygotsky)

The MIND is in the head; focus on "cognitive reorganization


The MIND is in social transactions and emerges from acculturation into a community of practice
RAW MATERIALS; uses primary data,"manipulatives," or other interactive materials AUTHENTIC PROBLEMS; learning environments reflect real-world complexities

STUDENT AUTONOMY; thinking and learning responsibility in students' hands to foster ownership



TEAM CHOICE AND COMMON INTERESTS; builds on common interests and experiences within a learning group, and gives some choice to that group; learning activities are "relevant, meaningful, and both product and process oriented"

MEANINGFULNESS AND PERSONAL MOTIVATION; learning related to personal ideas and experiences





SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND ELABORATION; uses activities with multiple solutions, uncertainty, novelty, etc, demanding dialogue, idea sharing, etc.; encourages student elaboration/justification for their responses through discussion, questioning, group presentations
CONCEPTUAL ORGANIZATION/ COGNITIVE FRAMING; information organized around concepts, problems, questions, themes, interrelationships; activities framed within thinking-related terminology

GROUP PROCESSING AND REFLECTION; encourages group processing of experiences




PRIOR KNOWLEDGE AND MISCONCEPTIONS builds on prior knowledge and addresses misconceptions



TEACHER EXPLANATIONS, SUPPORT, & DEMONSTRATIONS demonstrates problemıs steps and provides hints, prompts, cues, and clarifications where requested


QUESTIONING; promotes individual inquiry with open-ended questions; encourages question-asking behavior

MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS; fosters multiple ways of understanding A problem; builds in audiences beyond the instructor


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