Problem-based learning – action learning from around Europe

Today I have been reviewing the action learning diaries that half a dozen people have sent me from Greece and Cyprus. They are getting ready for training in problem-based learning that I will be co-leading here in London at Think Up with Prof Søren Willert from the University of Aalborg (see picture) as part of the EU ErasmusPlus-funded Enginite programme, and we have set them some problem-based learning of their own to do before they arrive.

The idea behind problem-based learning is that the student should own the problem and own the process of finding the solution. This approach is diamertrically opposed to the traditional direction of travel for learning. The aim of our approach is to get the participants to experience this problem-based approach for themselves before they start designing such experiences for their students.

The first set of reflective diaries that I have read reveal very different ways of working in our cohort. Some are applying problem-based learning with their students; others, who don’t teach, are adopting this approach with colleagues in their companies, and it is this latter group which is perhaps the most fascinating – because is in fact the sort of environment for which we are eventually preparing students.

At the moment problem-based learning feels like very rich territory to be farming in. The approach itself is a powerful philisophy that has many daily applications, and coaching other people in its use is gives me the chance to witness the daily strategies for sucess that other people use.

One of things that I really enjoy about this project is that is it is open – you can join in yourself if you follow the instructions below – and everyone is learning as they go. For my part I am learning what other people understand problem-based learning to be and become ever more aware of its applications. It is also terrific to be working with Søren, I feel like I learn so much from each of our interactions. Today it has been really interesting to see how he characterises the different types of PBL as described in the reflective diaries. To his words, it is enabling me to notice ‘exemplarities’ that I can look for in other people’s work.

To find out more about this project and get involved visit ‘Getting Started with Problem-based learning‘ on the Think Up website.

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  1. And today I have picked up a new technique from Søren. We had an email exchange yesterday reviewing the action learning journals sent to us and I suggested we write them up as comments for the students. And he says, no lets send them as they are to show them our thinking process. I feel this is significant as to have ‘written up our comments in neat’ would have reinforced the idea of us as teachers needing to present information in a certain form; sending the notes as they stand emphasises a relationship of equals sharing their thinking. Noted.

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