The Journal of Problem Based Learning in Higher Education (JPBLHE) represents state of the art research in the theory and practice of PBL in higher education and actively seeks to promote transformative and progressive university pedagogy; it is published by Aalborg University, Dept. Of Communication and Psychology. The editors are particularly interested in receiving high-quality original research articles, informed by robust empirical and theoretical underpinnings from the fields and disciplines related to problem-based learning in higher education, particularly pedagogy, but also articles based on fields and disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and science and engineering. The journal is also interested in receiving articles that make an original practical or critical contribution to research theory and practice and knowledge and understanding of contemporary themes, developments and current thinking in problem-based learning in higher education. Scope/Coverage: Principles and philosophy of PBL in Higher Education The pedagogy of PBL PBL and everyday practice PBL management and policy-making PBL and workplace cultures Critical PBL PBL, ICT and technology-enhanced learning PBL and networked learning PBL internships and cooperative education PBL and intercultural studies Interdisciplinarity and PBL PBL, creativity and creative processes


The library contains articles of Journal of Problem Based Learning in Higher Education as of vol. 1(2013) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Implementing the Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion Article Structure in Engineering Education based on Problem-based Learning

    Liso, Vincenzo (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-24)
    The organization of knowledge influences how effectively students learn, so that if the information are well structured and the knowledge acquisition process is carried out in a systemic way, one can more effectively retrieve pieces of knowledge. To tackle this problem a common document format used in academia, IMRaD (Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion), can help students in natural science and engineering education to approach the problem of knowledge organization in a systemic way from the beginning of the learning process. In this study, we explore the use of the IMRaD format for students pursuing undergraduate and master's degrees as a tool for learning whilst making the project report more comprehensible for readers. The predefined document structure cannot be considered the solution to all learning issues and it should not limit the unpredictability, which is necessary during the creative thinking typical of the research environment.
  • Integrating Disciplines with PBL at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL)

    Aparicio, Carlos Estuardo; Hinojosa, Karen; Casillas, Amanda Melissa (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
    Problem-based learning is one of the most useful resources in education with the potential to effect real world change. The evident benefits of PBL in the face of the challenges that Latin America presently encounters have led many institutions to consider the adoption of PBL curricula. However, PBL implementation has its own set of difficulties. “I liked to work in a multidisciplinary team because our skills were complemented. Sometimes, it was difficult to understand our different ways of working, because we were focused on different things”, said one of the students of our institution. This paper describes how different academic programs from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL) in Mexico, were integrated in a Learning Unit (LU) using the Problem Based Learning (PBL) methodology. First, we present some PBL definitions to delineate its main characteristics, like the students facing real problems. Afterwards, we describe the PBL implementation process at our university, its precedents, the administrative process, and the adaptation into an existing LU. Additionally, we describe how we adapted the PBL methodology to the Sustainable Ecological Environments course while also integrating the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, dedicated to cities and sustainable communities. Finally, we mention some findings from the Sustainable Ecological Environments LU. Most notably, the students favour working in multidisciplinary teams and the amount of student investment was higher than in traditionally taught courses. Nevertheless, multidisciplinary work means a constructive challenge for teachers, because it involves a closer monitoring of the student's learning process and a different time distribution than traditional courses, with a higher time investment during planning stages.
  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
  • A PBL Collaborative and Cumulative Dynamics Towards Urban Sustainable Environments

    Fernández, Mónica Inés; Constantinidis, Barbara Rita; Brignone, Mabel C; Bonvecchi, Liliana; Orduna, Martín Blas; Carbone, Carolina A; Otero, María de los Ángeles; Ciarciá, Federica; de Souza, Juan (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
    Erasmus+ CityLab Program at Universidad de Belgrano School of Architecture and Urban Planning, has focused on urban structure as generator of dynamic and transformable spaces, through a local case located at Juan B. Justo Avenue corridor, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The CityLab project motivated students to experience an integrative 3-year Problem-Based Learning process, related to Morphology Communication and Digital Media, Urban and Territorial Planning, Final Degree Project, as well as integration with School of Public Relations. More than 75 students participated in this international programme to explore, diagnose and re-think city scale, as well as to discover, build and apply technological tools. Land use and mobility regulations were introduced with the participation of stakeholders and external experts in different stages from diagnosis to final project validation. Student’s and teacher´s staff contribution to the academic final conference “PBL for Sustainable Cities”- September 2018, Bogotá, produced a motivating socialization in collaboration with local partners.
  • The Crowdmapping Mirafiori Sud Experience: An Educational Methodology Through a Collaborative and Inclusive Process

    Coscia, Cristina; De Filippi, Francesca (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
    The CrowdMapping Mirafiori Sud (CMMS) pilot project, carried out by the Polytechnic of Turin (Italy), involved the academic world (students and professors), the Mirafiori Onlus Foundation, the local administration and the community in a participatory and inclusive process. The district is a large area of ​​Turin characterized by a high average age of its inhabitants and a high percentage of foreigners. The aim of the project is to identify and report, through the use of ICT, the obstacles that prevent residents - the most vulnerable categories - from using public space. In the start-up phase, it was not born as a PBL approach, but during the application the PBL was considered a development perspective in the educational experience starting from the students' proposals and the exchange of their skills, in the specific declination of the PBL approach known as community engaged learning. For students, this version of PBL has proven to be strategic in the implementation phases of the project, in particular in the mapping of interested parties and the data set and connections between networks of actors.
  • Editorial

    Coppens, Tom; Fregonara, Elena; Pineda, Andrés Felipe Valderrama; Holgaard, Jette Egelund; Telléus, Patrik Kristoffer Kjærsdam (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
  • An Experience of PBL in the Learning of Urban Planning. Chair of Urbanism IIA, FAUD, UNC, Argentine Republic

    Sánchez, Mónica Elisa; Cebrián, Victoria; Repiso, Luciana; Torres, César; Ruiz, Jorge (Aalborg University Press, 2020-06-02)
    Within the framework of the CITYLAB LA "Engaging students with sustainable cities in Latin-America" Project, ERASMUS Program, this article reflects on the application of the Project-oriented Problem-Based Learning pedagogical method in the workshop work carried out by the Chair Urbanism IIA –Faculty of Architecture, Urbanism and Design, National University of Córdoba, Argentine Republic– in the first quarter of the school cycle 2017–, called “Urban-Territorial Plan for the Municipality of Villa Allende, Province of Córdoba. Scenario 2032”. An evaluative analysis of the results of this experience is carried out in relation to the teaching-learning process proposed by the Chair. The Chair Urbanism IIA belongs to the 5th year of the Architecture Degree and its main objective is that students develop professional competences for the study and intervention of the contemporary city as an integral fact inserted in various territorial and contextual scenarios, from the paradigm of environmental sustainability.
  • Theoretical and Operational Reflections on the Interdisciplinary PBL Simulation for Conflict Negotiation and Communication at the University of Helsinki.

    Wood, Graham (Aalborg University Press, 2020-04-03)
    An interdisciplinary approach has been adopted for undergraduate Law and Social Science students attending separate seven-week intensive language communication courses run at the University of Helsinki. The challenge has been to anchor this pedagogical development within theoretical frames of reference that contextualise the interdisciplinary PBL simulation. Focus is placed on one of the simulations - Bradford Simulation, based on the 1995 riots involving the Pakistani immigrant community in the English city of Bradford. Conflict encompasses multidimensional problems and synthesising interdisciplinarity with the PBL simulation attempts to create a learning environment in which students can gain an insight into the intricacies of conflict analysis, management and resolution. Considerations of student identity and learning factors are recognised. Key operational management factors requiring advanced organisational and communication skills by the teacher are also broached. Whilst positive outcomes have accrued there are limitations that have compromised the activity.    
  • World Café as a Participatory Approach to Facilitate the Implementation Process of Problem-Based Learning

    Camacho, Heillyn Nunez; Rybels, Stijn; Coppens, Tom; Valderrama Pineda, Andrés (Aalborg University Press, 2020-03-20)
    Shifting from a traditional lecture-based teaching approach to a student-centred approach, such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL), demands significant changes in Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs). It requires changes for teachers, students, institutional management, and even the physical learning environment. Once a university is not designed from the beginning to insert this type of pedagogy, it is difficult to promote a change of this nature if the institution is committed to a more traditional pedagogical approach. Therefore, introducing PBL as an important innovation faces problems of conservatism, institutional inertia, path dependency, lack of knowhow and knowledge among teachers, poor institutional support, and poor connection with societal and economic actors. This article presents the World Café technique as a participatory method to identify and overcome some of the challenges when implementing a PBL approach. We confront the results of the Citylab World Café with the challenges identified in the literature. The authors identify three aspects of the implementation process of PBL in HEIs that can be facilitated through the World Café technique: (1) understanding the principles of PBL through engaging in a constructive dialogue, (2) fostering critical reflections about teaching and learning practises, and (3) changing the organisational culture by promoting collective sense-making and the construction of meaning.
  • Academic Performance of Students of Urban Design, Applying Problem-based learning (PBL)

    Ornés Vasquez, Sandra; Lara, Luis (Aalborg University Press, 2020-03-20)
    The urban design courses of the urban planning career in the Universidad Simón Bolívar (USB, 2017) Caracas-Venezuela, are part of the backbone of workshops (4 of 11) and invite to the study of parts of the city whose problems demand to be resolved, according to traditional teaching methods. Considering this precedent and within the framework of the Citylab project (2015-2018), the Problem Based Learning (PBL) is implemented in Workshop VI, during the last quarter of 2017; and then a questionnaire is given to the participating students to know their opinion on the following points: their role in this process of building knowledge, and their appreciation about both the exchange with local guests-actors and this new methodology. The respondents conclude that in the face of the traditional method, the PBL promoted capacity building for critical analysis, teamwork and consensus building against the city’s complex problems.
  • A Scoping Review of the Relation Between Problem-based Learning and Professional Identity Development in Medical Education

    Johansson, Nicolaj; Nøhr, Susanne B.; Stentoft, Diana (Aalborg University Press, 2020-03-19)
    There is a substantial amount of research pointing to the benefits of pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning (PBL) and the importance of developing professional identity as a physician in medical education. The aim of this review is to investigate the existing literature concerned with the relation between PBL and professional identity development in undergraduate medical students. We performed a scoping review of six electronic databases to map out how the relation between PBL and professional identity development in undergraduate medical students is presented in the existing literature. Eight peer-reviewed full text articles were retrieved as eligible for review. The most important conclusion from our work is that even though the topic of professional identity development in medical education has been studied quite extensively, there is a lack of knowledge about how new types of pedagogical approaches such as how a PBL curriculum influences medical students’ professional identity development.
  • Innovating Education for Sustainable Urban Development through Problem Based Learning in Latin America: Lessons from the CITYLAB Experience

    Coppens, Tom; Pineda, Andres Valderrama; Henao, Kelly; Rybels, Stijn; Samoilovich, Daniel; de jonghe, Nina; Camacho, Heilyn (Aalborg University Press, 2020-03-19)
    This article discusses the challenges and opportunities identified in the implementation of the Citylab project in Latin America during the period of 2015-2018. The project was funded by the Erasmus+ Key action 2 programme of the European Union. The project aims to innovate teaching for sustainability in higher education institutions through Problem Based Learning (PBL). Opposed to traditional teaching methods, the pedagogical approach of PBL is a learner-centred approach that takes a complex problem as point of departure instead of existing established knowledge. Since application of such learning methods is limited in Latin America, the Citylab project attempts to introduce PBL in the existing curricula of 12 Latin American universities through the implementation and development of interdisciplinary Citylab modules focusing on sustainable urban development. First, the role of PBL in education for sustainability is discussed in a broader theoretical context. Second, the goals, implementation strategies and results of the Citylab project will be presented. Third, we highlight some critical issues and success factors experienced during the project. The findings of this paper are based on (1) self-reported questionnaires from the partners at the end of 2017; (2) on-site visits by the authors and expert visits; (3) focus groups, interviews and conversations with project leaders of the participating institutions during the project. Depending on the institution, the project results were varying in terms of innovation and upscaling potential. Critical factors were related to the role of the project leader in the organization, the flexibility of the implementation and cultural differences. Internal regulations created both incentives and disincentives for participation. Competitive elements in the project and available resources for equipment can act as stimulators in some cases. The challenge lies moreover in detecting windows of opportunities for change in order to accomplish curriculum reform and by doing so, pursue continuation of the PBL approach after the project’s horizon.
  • Comprehensive Evaluative Perspective of PBL on the Learning-Teaching Process of Architechture in the Universidad Simón Bolivar

    Soonets, Silvia; Olaizola, Carlos; Mena, Aliz Beatriz; Dorbessan, Bernardo; Micucci, Franco (Aalborg University Press, 2020-02-19)
    The learning process in architecture at Universidad Simon Bolivar is based on confronting students with practical or theoretical situations to let them acquire knowledge about the discipline. The core of this process is on design studio courses, and from the early stages of the program they have to discover for themselves the role of architecture in the creation of spaces. Alongside this design methodology, students are exposed to theoretical, historical, and technical knowledge that aims to complement their skills for their professional future. This paper evaluates the general efficiency of the learning process based on solving problems. The first part describes the application of a problem-based situation in a sustainable urban environment for the Architectural professional. The second part explores similarities and differences among Design Studio Learning(DSL), as it is generally applied, and Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Data about methodology, level of student participation, and results were compared using the syllabus. The comparison between title, competences and objectives shows that these aspects should be addressed differently if using PBL.
  • Project Based Learning versus Traditional Learning – Comparing Perspectives of Arab Managers with Chinese Managers

    Jaeger, Martin; Yu, Gang; Adair, Desmond (Aalborg University Press, 2020-01-21)
    The perspectives on Project Based Learning (PBL), traditional learning and engineering competencies are influenced by national and organizational culture. Based on Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory and grounded in constructivist learning theory, the purpose of this study is to identify the perspectives of Arab and Chinese managers on the effectiveness of PBL versus traditional learning. Utilizing descriptive and inferential statistics (Wilcoxon and Mann Whitney U test), findings show that Arab managers perceive 13 and Chinese managers 2 competencies to be more effectively developed by PBL, while the difference between PBL and traditional learning is perceived smaller among Chinese managers. A higher desire of avoiding uncertainty among Arab managers, higher achievement orientation among Chinese managers and an influence of educational systems were identified. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are advised to consider these findings, in order to compare with their institutions’ utilization of PBL versus traditional learning and to prepare engineers for global employment.  
  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2019-12-18)
  • A Holistic and Multifaceted Model for Ill-Structured Experiential Problem-Based Learning: Enhancing Student Critical Thinking and Communication Skills

    Miner-Romanoff, Karen; Rae, Amy; Zakrzewski, Chris E (Aalborg University Press, 2019-12-18)
    Educators have observed that our college graduates are not equipped with the complex problem-solving skills to contribute to the many challenges of industry and other professional contexts. This paper describes an experiential problem-based multifaceted instructional design and teaching model at the New York University School of Professional Studies, developed by instructional design and technological experts. The model combines traditional instructional design, evidence-based strategies, and learning theories for development of student critical thinkers who can transfer their new knowledge and capabilities to industry and various other professional contexts. This model includes unique faculty and student orientations and guides, students as active contributors, instructors as facilitators, and collaborative projects. Student surveys of four cohorts (68 students) over four academic quarters indicated strong positive results. Students practiced through experiential problem-based learning and thereby learned critical and creative thinking that increased their communication skills. The program, to continue through New York University, can also be adapted for professionally-oriented education degrees, certifications, and lifelong learning courses.
  • Action research in planning education

    Frandsen, Martin Severin; Andersen, John (Aalborg University Press, 2019-12-18)
    This article presents experiences and reflections from two cases of problem-oriented project work working with action research in bottom-up urban planning and sustainable transition in Copenhagen. The first case concerns the involvement of local residents in the redesign of a public square through a series of aesthetic experiments. The second case concerns an experiment with alternative transport solutions and sustainable street transition through reduction of private car use and the creation of new public spaces on former parking lots. The article concludes that action research seems to be a promising way of involving students in processes of planning and sustainable urban transition. Seen from the perspective of external stakeholders, the students can make valuable contributions to the exploration of the potentials of places and the possible futures of communities, and they can assist in providing a knowledge base for planned experiments and initiatives. Seen from the perspective of the students, doing action research strengthens their understanding of “the logic of practice” and their ability to master practical and ethical judgments in complex real-world empowerment and learning processes.
  • Web 2.0 Technologies Supporting Problem Based Learning: A Systematic Literature Review

    Ünal, Erhan (Aalborg University Press, 2019-11-20)
    The purpose of this study was to investigate the study general trends with regards to Web 2.0 technologies supporting problem-based learning (PBL) environments. A systematic literature review was applied to analyse studies published in this area, with a total of 18 articles included in the review. The content analysis method was applied in the study. The results indicated that the emergence of studies in this area was in 2007. The studies were conducted in different research domains. The qualitative research paradigm was the most frequently used, and higher education students the most preferred study group in the articles. Wiki was the most integrated Web 2.0 tool in PBL environments. Interview was the most selected data collection tool, with qualitative analysis methods the most used in the articles. The variables investigated the most in the studies were perception about the effectiveness of PBL and achievement. The effectiveness of Web 2.0 technologies supporting PBL was the most frequently reported finding. Therefore, the current study was able to identify the recent trends in this research area. Based on the results, the study put forward suggested implications for future research.
  • Editorial

    Holgaard, Jette Egelund; Søndergaard, Bettina Dahl; Ryberg, Thomas; Telléus, Patrik Kristoffer Kjærsdam (Aalborg University Press, 2019-12-18)
  • The Problems that Impact the Quality of Project Management Courses Developed Following a Project-Based Learning Approach with the Support of Community Partners

    Arantes do Amaral, Joao Alberto (Aalborg University Press, 2019-09-26)
    This case study presents findings regarding the problems that impact the quality of a Project Elaboration and Management course, developed following a project-based learning approach. From 2014 to 2019, the course was taught 27 times, involving 596 undergraduate students from Federal University of Sao Paolo, Campus Osasco, Brazil. The research objective is to reveal the main problems encountered both in setting up and delivering the course, and to analyze their impacts on the quality of the course. Data was collected from the professor’s notes, from correspondence between the professor, students, and other stakeholders, minutes of meetings between the professor and stakeholders, and from the students´ reports about the projects. The data was analyzed following a qualitative systemic analysis, revealing the impacts of the identified problems on the course. The article concludes by presenting possible ways of reducing such problems.

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