An introduction to Problem-Based Learning and its application to an animal bioethics curriculum

Hanlon, A. J. (2005) An introduction to Problem-Based Learning and its application to an animal bioethics curriculum. In: Animal Bioethics: Principles and Teaching Methods. UNSPECIFIED, pp. 283-295.


The learning objectives of most third level institutions are to promote deep-learning, and problem-solving abilities, providing students with life-long learning skills, which they can continue to use after graduation. However, research suggests that traditional didactic teaching methods may fail to achieve these learning objectives, and instead support passive and shallow learning. As a consequence, new teaching methods have been developed, to enhance the educational and learning power in a teaching environment. Problem-based learning (PBL) is a relatively recent teaching strategy, which places the responsibility of learning on the student. Its general aims are to develop critical thinking and communication skills, as well as knowledge acquisition, in a problem-solving context. PBL differs from traditional didactic teaching in several ways. It is a student-centred mode of teaching, where the students determine the learning objectives within the context of a problem. It is problem-based and not necessarily subject based, demonstrating the interdisciplinary nature of most real-life problems; the teacher acts as a facilitator and not as a provider of facts, thus supporting learner autonomy. There are different PBL models, and, as with other forms of teaching and learning, there are guidelines that need to be adhered to in order to maximise learning potential and prevent shortfalls in PBL. This chapter will address all of the above issues, providing case examples, to give the reader a greater understanding of PBL.

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