Problem-based learning (PBL) is  student-centred instructional approach that  uses a complex problem with a myriad of  solutions, (or no solutions at all). Students  work collaboratively in groups to define the  problem from the given content, ultimately  arriving at a solution(s), while fulfilling the intended learning outcomes. 


PBL is ideal for REAL WORLD and open-ended problems, to foster student collaboration, critical thinking skills, and to improve the students’ communicative ability. It is used in government agencies in North America to train personnel in handling domestic violence, financial non-compliance, negotiation skills, and even counter-terrorism activities. PBL has its roots in medical and business schools, so any learning material that can be organised into a “problem”, and packaged as a case can be used for PBL


Using PBL would require these elements, an open-ended problem with many possible solutions (or no solutions at all), a functioning student group that is able to discuss and work on opinions from all members, time and space to conduct the PBL as part of the teaching activity, opportunities for the students to reflect on what they have learnt, facilitated by an organised approach to discuss ideas, e.g. the F(act), I(dea), L(earning Goals), A(ction) method.



Group members should have known each other, and able to resolve in-group differences and conflicts.  


Learning Outcomes

Able to come arrive at a solution(s) for a given problem(s) through collaborative group work and critical thinking skills. 


Instructional Formats

2-3 sessions of 20-60 minute group discussion, followed by group reflection in between for a given “problem”. An appropriate number of “triggers” that further streamline discussion may be given throughout the PBL session. Group members collaborate off and online to work on a problem using the F(act), I(dea), L(earning Goals), A(ction) approach to construct a FILA table. The Instructor should have the necessary rubrics and skills to assess not only the knowledge, but group and interpersonal dynamics as well.


Material and learning environment

Materials used for PBL should have a predefined learning outcomes. This would be the basis to intervene in the pace of group discussion. The FILA table can be collected at the end of each PBL session for (formative) assessment purpose, and to monitor group progress in attaining learning outcomes. Learners are also asked to reflect on what they have learnt after every PBL session. Common approach to reflection, such as pair-share, exit-slip, gallery walk, mind mapping would be helpful. Gibbs Reflective Cycle is commonly used to help in organised-reflection 


Implementation and continuous improvements

PBL requires rethink in approach to minimise the number of instructors and physical classroom. Online group collaboration tools such as Padlet would allow PBL groups to be monitored remotely without the need for physical presence. The instructor needs to ensure that group is focused on the problem at hand and not distracted by emotional squabbles within the group. Content accuracy and completeness of the solution and how these are communicated should be monitored at all times. Summative review of what works and what doesn’t would lead to the adjustment of instructional strategies based on students interaction with the content, instructor, and peers. Feedback could be used to constrcut effective PBL materials and activities.  

 Business Instructional Slide to Prepare for PO PBL Semester Project
Associate Professor Dr Goh Yong Meng, DVM, PhD 

Department of Veterinary Preclinical Sciences
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Universiti Putra Malaysia

Collaboration & Contextual Learning

Dr. Chia Suet Lin sharing about collaboration and contextual learning



1. Research Project

2. Group Discussion

3. Design an app

4. Student farm

5. Model Construction


Pusat Pembangunan Akademik
Tingkat 4, Bangunan Canselori Putra, Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan


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