Problem-Based Learning - PBL – Faculty of Engineering

Problem-Based Learning PBL

Posing the problem before learning motivates students to find the solutions.

How PBL works

  • Increases motivation

    Students know why they’re learning new knowledge

  • Assists with memory

    Knowledge attained through PBL is stored in memory patterns that facilitate later recall for solving problems

  • Improves effectiveness

    Small group, self-directed and self-assessed PBL is active, cooperative and allows for a better opportunity to account for  personal learning preferences

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PBL in Chemical Engineering

We use PBL in two courses: one topic or problem in a junior level course and five topics in a senior level course.

Outcomes include chemical engineering subject knowledge (process safety and engineering economics), lifetime learning skills and chairperson skills. Each problem is studied for about one week.


Students concurrently are taking five to seven required courses in the conventional format.

The two PBL courses have about 30 – 50 people. We use five to ten tutorless groups with five students per group.

We provide students with the training we give to tutors; we empower the student groups to be autonomous and accountable, with the tutor’s role being to monitor and hold the individuals and groups accountable for their learning

Before the first PBL activity, students participate in workshops that introduce this approach and teach strategies for managing change.

Students are required to frequently submit journal reports that detail their progress and activities in groups.

Students also participate in three meetings: a goals meeting, a teach meeting and an elaboration/feedback meeting.


Frequently asked questions

The traditional and well-known “case approach”, which is popular with business schools, may or may not be problem-based learning. Often the case is used to integrate previously-learned knowledge and would not be, according to this definition, problem-based learning.

Not without explicit interventions on the part of the teacher. PBL offers an opportunity to develop the skills.

Change is not easy. This change asks teachers to change their role from the source of all knowledge to being the coach and facilitator of that knowledge.

The learning becomes student-centred.