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

  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-22)
  • How Differences in Motivation and Identification Shape Four Types of Student Experiences with Problem-Based Learning

    Buus, Katrine; Møller Pedersen, Louise (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-22)
    This article examines why students experience Problem-Based Learning (PBL) environments differently and discusses considerations for improving PBL environments to support a more diverse student population. Based on theoretical perspectives regarding motivation, identification, and learning, we present a new typology consisting of four types of students with distinctly different ways of creating motivation and identity in a PBL environment. While some principles in the examined PBL model motivate and validate certain types of students, the same principles can also challenge identification or result in demotivation among other types of students. Both results are important to consider when developing an inclusive PBL environment. The typology can serve as a theoretical framework for understanding, analysing, and discussing how and why students experience contemporary or new learning environments differently. Additionally, the typology provides a tool for organizations and teachers to motivate and validate students with different type characteristics and improve PBL practices accordingly.
  • Editorial

    Telléus, Patrik Kjærsdam; Søndergaard, Bettina Dahl (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-22)
  • Sharing is Caring: Building PBL Coherence Supported by IT to Integrate Semester Courses and Projects

    Svarre Kristensen, Nanna; Ram Bruun- Pedersen, Jon; Busk Kofoed, Lise; Birch Andreasen, Lars (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    Organizing a coherent PBL semester where courses and project work are integrated and supporting the development of both disciplinary and generic competences is difficult. In this study we investigate how integration can be supported by different IT initiatives. Applying a practice theoretical approach, inspired by Stephen Kemmis, this article analyses how the practice activities and the resources within the practice are constituting challenges and possibilities for an integrated PBL practice. The findings of the study illuminate possibilities in reorganizing a semester structure with focus on creating a shared language to support communication and establishing solidary ways of relating. An important issue is also to have focus on the dispositions to act within the actual IT based materiality.
  • Emerging PBL Futures: Exploring Normative Scenario Development as an apporach to support Transformation in Problem-based Learning and Higher Education

    Bertel, Lykke Brogaard; Kolmos, Anette; Melbye Boelt, Anders (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    Problem-based learning has a long history of transforming higher education institutions at course-, curriculum- and even systemic levels, and has shown to enhance student-centered learning and core pedagogical values such as facilitating collaboration, complex problem-solving skills and critical thinking. However, rapid digitalisation in higher education and emerging trends such as personalised life-long learning through micro-credentials and flexible curriculum models challenges existing, traditional onsite PBL practices and require new frameworks for envisioning future practice in higher education based on an understanding of its local context and the inclusion of multiple relevant stakeholders and practitioners, not only to co-create potential scenarios suitable for a particular educational institution but also in pointing to directions for initiating and maintaining this change process on a systemic level. In this paper, we propose normative scenario thinking as a method for educational development, and present the first steps and initial findings from a process of normative scenario development within a PBL university. The aim of this process has been to identify and explore key trends and core values that inform the development of future scenarios for the conceptualisation and implementation of PBL at the university, in a digital age. Through the analysis of a specific scenario related to project variation and reflection, we exemplify how a value-based and problem-oriented approach to exploring emerging PBL futures can facilitate systemic change in higher education.
  • Opportunities, Challenges, Tools and Helpful Relations: Development of a Model of How to foster Reflections in Higher Education

    Scholkmann, Antonia; Lolle, Elisabeth Lauridsen (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    This paper presents a holistic model which can be used to help teachers to design pedagogical opportunities for meaningful reflections in higher education. Within the PBL Future initiative of Aalborg University, we worked with a group of students from different study programmes and levels. In a three-semester long process these students engaged in a series of reflective activities aimed at helping them become more aware of their professional competence developments. In an iterative process we analysed their reactions to and interactions with a set of given reflective tasks (both face-to-face and online), and with the research team. We summarise our insights into the complex dynamics of reflective processes in a model which conceptualises reflections as taking place as interplay between opportunities, challenges, tools and helpful relations, and with inspiration from the outside world.
  • Progression of Self-Directed Learning in PBL: Comparing Consecutive Semesters at AAU

    Clausen, Nicolaj Riise (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    The purpose of this article is to describe the results from an investigation of the development of students' attitudes and behaviours conducive to self-directed learning (SDL) in problem-based learning. The article reports the results from an application of a newly validated statistical instrument to measure self-directed learning on bachelor students in sociology and data science, comparing first-, second- and third-year students. The results are analysed through factor analysis and by comparing mean scores across the three generations of students. The results suggest that the students develop their SDL attitudes and behaviours through their first three years at a Problem-based learning (PBL) university, but also show that this is not a linear or uniform process. The results of the factor analysis show that the students develop their ability to be self-regulating during their second year and move towards a more internal locus of control during their third year.
  • How does an Industry-aligned Technology-rich Problem-based Learning (PBL) Model Influence Low-income and Native Hawaiian Student’s STEM Career Interest?

    Nariman, Nahid (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    The need to increase students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is growing. The current study delivers results of an Upward Bound program focused on advancing students’ interest toward STEM fields and careers. Project STEMulate, funded by the National Science Foundation’s ITEST program, used Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in challenging students to engage in solving hands-on, real-world authentic problems in their communities. Project STEMulate takes structured PBL one step further by collaborating with local STEM Industry Partners for contextual learning and STEM pipeline development. The results revealed a raised interest in STEM, and a correlation between: 1) students’ career interest and their science ability and motivation, and 2) their Science Self-Efficacy and PBL ratings associated with their interest in STEM careers. These results highlight the significant potential of PBL instructional strategies to increase students’ attitudes toward and interest in future STEM careers.
  • Fiddlers Green College: Looking for Equitable Workforce Pathways in Silicon Valley

    Montoya, Jonathan; Peterson, Forest; Kinslow II, Anthony; Fruchter, Renate; Fischer, Martin; Bustamante, Andres Sebatian (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    Often, research on the efficacy of postsecondary workforce programs does not convey their impact on true social mobility. The purpose of this study is to investigate project-based Career and Technical Education (CTE) workforce pathways in Silicon Valley. This study takes a step towards better understanding what constitutes the metrics that explain functioning pathways. In contributing to Project-Based Learning (PBL) theory, Amaral et al. (2015) found that seven PBL essentials form good learning outcomes; Creghan and Adair-Creghan (2015) then showed a measurable outcome of PBL is higher attendance, to which Plasman and Gottfried (2020), using a case of Applied STEM CTE (AS-CTE), framed attendance as a predictor of the efficacy of a workforce pathway. Recommendation: Through ethnography, the investigators observed that when social mobility was added as a metric of high quality PBL with AS-CTE in a predictive ontology framework of education success, an improved level of attendance was observed. The authors conclude that using the seven essentials and social mobility as a metric of PBL helps explain the observation of PBL’s improved efficacy. Hence, social mobility should be a metric of PBL AS-CTE program outcomes.
  • The Power of Problem Based Learning beyond its Didactic Attributes

    Simboeck, Elisabeth; Marksteiner, Jessica; Machacek, Thomas; Wiessner, Katharina; Gepp, Barbara; Jesenberger, Veronika; Weihs, Anna; Leitner, Rita (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    Hybrid courses with a focus on practice-orientated education and self-guided learning phases are on the rise on the higher education sector. Disciplines in Life Sciences implicate a high degree of practical laboratory expertise. The University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Vienna, Austria, has thus been endeavoured offering students a high qualitative education integrating hybrid courses based on PBL principles, which consist of on-site (including the transmission of necessary background and practical laboratory training) and off-site (including self-study phases) sessions. As practical laboratory units are central in those courses, the restrictive measures, including the transition to a complete online teaching format due to the first Covid-19-pandemic lock-down, had severe effects on the implementation and the quality of the curriculum. According to surveys made specifically to address this problematic situation, it can be concluded that on-site practical units are fundamental for certain disciplines such as Life Sciences.
  • Disagreeing About the Problem in PBL: How Students Negotiate Disagreements Regarding the Problem in PBL

    Velmurugan, Giajenthiran; Stentoft, Diana; Davidsen, Jacob Gorm (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    An essential part of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is the students’ groupwork. What happens in students’ group work when no tutor/facilitator is present is normally a hidden land. Thus, there is limited research on students’ interactional way of doing PBL, this study tries to amend this by looking at how students conduct group work without any tutor/facilitator present. In this study, our research question is: How do students negotiate disagreements in their decision-making regarding their problem construction, and which element(s) in the interaction establishes if the decision is made or not? With a focus on students’ interactional work, we used video-observation to gather data of a 3rd semester Engineering Group at Aalborg University, Denmark. Our findings indicate that the conversation's structure has a profound impact on whether a decision proposal is accepted. Thus, the individual’s ability to hold on to their position and answer questions towards one’s proposal determines if other group members follow your suggestion. The study provides knowledge to an under-researched area of PBL and recommends a focus on PBL students’ interactional work in relation to near future cases of PBL.
  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
  • Editorial

    Bertel, Lykke Brogaard; Kolmos, Anette; Ryberg, Thomas (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
  • Facilitating Reflection and Progression in PBL: A Content Analysis of Generic Competences in Formal PBL Curricula

    Boelt, Anders Melbye; Kolmos, Anette; Brogaard Bertel, Lykke (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    This paper proposes a systematic approach to the analysis of the prevalence of generic competences in formal problem-based learning (PBL) curricula at higher education institutions and universities in which generic competences are an integral and integrated part of the curriculum, with a particular focus on how the generic competences are specified explicitly in the curriculum. A case study on the implementation of PBL competences at Aalborg University (AAU) shows, that the dialectic relationship between knowledge and practice is limited after the first semester, with the risk that both knowledge, skills, and competences related to PBL become tacit and thus might be less easily expressed and related to the development of a professional identity. Based on this we argue that revision of the formal curricula must support students with theoretical knowledge on PBL, project management, and group collaboration throughout the study to accommodate a greater variety in types of problems, projects, and complexity. This calls for further elaboration of ‘generic’ competence frameworks and points to challenges and potentials for near-future and next practice curriculum development particularly with attention to the concept of progression, thus providing a benchmark for future research assessing the integration of PBL competences in formal curricula.
  • Creating Landscapes of Practice through Sequential Learning - A New Vision for PBL

    Gyldendahl Jensen, Camilla; Gade, Peter; Dodensig Madsen, Jannie; Andersen, Michael; Olsen, Frank (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-20)
    In the current conceptualisations of Problem Based Learning and how we practice it, the students are expected to possess the necessary academic competencies in order to study through PBL. However, a desk research reveals that students in many cases don't have the necessary understanding or conceptual comprehension of disciplines such as problem formulation, analysis, exploration, literature review etc., which prevents them from unfolding an explorative approach to their professional practice. This article thus discusses Dewey's concepts of sequential inquiry processes to create new forms of learning designs to bolden further students ability to work problem-based. The article discusses through the development of iterative learning design how structured sequences of activities can provide a descriptive language to qualify a methodology for PBL. The study is based on Educational Design Research (EDR) as the overarching framework where the methods of Design thinking inform the design activities through iterative processes. Through a period of two years a total of 400 students at the education of ATCM, at University College of Northern Denmark has participated. The data collection included results from observation, reflective portfolios and sound recordings from the students' group work in combination with sketches, drawing and artefacts from the iterative design process. 
  • Enculturation of Psychologists through Problem-Based Learning in Aalborg University’s Children’s Clinic

    Jensen de López, Kristine M.; Søndergaard Knudsen, Hanne B. (Aalborg University Press, 2021-04-14)
    Problem-based learning (PBL) involves using problems as a starting point of learning rather than relying on traditional learning settings. In the present paper we present the theoretical framework behind a specific PBL setting we have developed since 2012 for training Danish psychologist students in a small university children’s clinic (Børnesprogklinikken) at Aalborg University, Denmark. We argue that our approach can serve as students’ enculturation into a specific profession, and that concepts from the theory of cultural learning and the concept of mediation can elucidate why this type of learning is effective for human beings, and specifically for students learning a profession. Finally, we discuss some of the learning outcomes of the PBL programme.
  • The Evaluation of the Problem Based Flipped Classroom Instruction Process in the Framework of Community of Inquiry

    Günbatar, Mustafa Serkan (Aalborg University Press, 2021-10-12)
    The aim of this study is to determine the effectiveness of the instruction process through the use of the PBFC model within the scope of the CN&C course. The evaluation of the PBFC process was made with the qualitative data obtained from the participants within the scope of CoI. Within the scope of cognitive presence the participants firstly talked about the fact that video-based materials started the learning process. Within the scope of social presence, they talked about the contribution of PBL activities to motivation and a respectful communication environment. Within the scope of  teaching presence, participants firstly mentioned the fact that PBL activities deepen the meaning of the subject. Within the scope of learning presence, participants talked about the increase in their self-efficacy regarding course content, the formation of regular study habits thanks to video-based materials, and they stated the fact that their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations stayed alive.
  • Action Research in Planning Education: – Experiences from Problem-oriented Project Work at Roskilde University

    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.
  • Re-focusing the Creative Process: Blending Problem-Based Studio Practice and Online Reflection: Refocusing the Creative Process

    Cunningham, Ben John (Aalborg University Press, 2018-04-23)
    To promote the development of greater creativity in my students’ design work, I created an online tool—called Reflective Inquiry (RI)—that accompanies all of my open-ended assignments  and that I require students to submit with each project.  The RI is composed of a series of prompts that students must respond to, almost daily, to explain and illustrate their thinking processes and decisions.  I ask students to think critically about questions such as “what don’t you understand about this assignment?”  “what materials are you exploring?” and “why these materials?”  In addressing a series of questions about basic ideas, historical research, materials, production, and future application of concepts, students articulate their thinking, acknowledge their confusions, identify creative concepts, and observe their own artistic development.  Being digital, RI can house student audio and video examples of their work in progress as well as serve as a dynamic platform for critiquing and classroom sharing.
  • Problem-based Learning in Institutional and Curricular Design at the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE)

    Rogers, Helen L.; Hitt, Sarah J; Allan, Dave G (Aalborg University Press, 2021-09-15)
    NMITE’s Master’s in Integrated Engineering (MEng) was created with a unique philosophy of integrating not only traditionally separate strands of engineering, but also of integrating engineering with other disciplines such as arts, humanities, and business. This broad and deep integration is made possible by adopting the principles and practices of problem-based learning (PBL) and embedding them within predetermined module challenges. In this way, each PBL challenge highlights and hones areas of engineering expertise and embeds liberal subjects whilst maintaining the integration intrinsic to the programme. Overall, this method supports the use of block learning with deep integration of employers and the community in the educational experience.

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