History to Problem-Based Learning

The PBL process was pioneered by Barrows and Tamblyn at the medical school program at McMaster University in Hamilton in the 1960s. Traditional medical education disenchanted students, who perceived the vast amount of material presented in the first three years of medical school as having little relevance to the practice of medicine and clinically based medicine. The PBL curriculum was developed in order to stimulate learning by allowing students to see the relevance and application to future roles. It maintains a higher level of motivation towards learning, and shows the importance of responsible, professional attitudes with teamwork values. The motivation for learning drives interest because it allows for selection of problems that have real-world application.

Problem-based learning has subsequently been adopted by other medical school programs adapted for undergraduate instruction, as well as K-12. The use of PBL has expanded from its initial introduction into medical school programs to include education in the areas of other health sciences, math, law, education, economics, business, social studies, and engineering. PBL includes problems that can be solved in many different ways depending on the initial identification of the problem and may have more than one solution.