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 Globethics 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, 2023-05-17)
  • Integrating the Integration: The Role of Problem-Based Learning in Bringing Together Social Science and Humanities (SHH) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

    Scholkmann, Antonia; Stegeager, Nikolaj; Miller, Richard K. (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    This paper provides a conceptual elaboration of the role of Problem-based Learning (PBL) in the integration of social sciences and humanities (SSH) with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and an analysis of the challenges this brings about. SSH-STEM integration is an endeavor that is timely, relevant, and urgent given the insufficient answers that higher education provides to the challenges social science and (especially) humanity faces. PBL can be argued as a pedagogical model to naturally cater to this demand. Based on two cases of integrated study programs from Aalborg University, Denmark, we analyze and discuss challenges and potential pitfalls in integrating SSH and STEM. As a result, we pinpoint learnings that can serve as timely guides in future iterations of problem-based, inter- and transdisciplinary endeavors in higher education.
  • Sustainability Matters: The Evolution of Sustainability Awareness, Interest and Engagement in PBL Engineering Students

    Servant-Miklos, Virginie; Holgaard, Jette E.; Kolmos, Anette (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    The purpose of this study was to identify patterns of change in students’ awareness of, interest in and engagement with sustainability issues during the process of acclimatisation to their PBL engineering studies, and to look for differences between engineering disciplines with respect to these aspects. This study used a longitudinal qualitative approach with a theory-led thematic analysis. There were 16 participants in total, interviewed at 3 intervals during a period of 18 months at a faculty of engineering in Denmark. The authors found a pattern of increase in sustainability awareness, interest, and engagement throughout the three semesters of the study. Some differences between engineering disciplines were visible, especially between sustainability-oriented engineering and the others. Most students who increased their sustainability awareness and interest were also likely to engage further with the topic. That engagement built up from individual engagement, to professional engagement and for some, into institutional and public sphere engagement. The findings are timely given the pressure faced by engineering education to incorporate sustainability issues. It provides avenues for educating engineering graduates who will display interest, awareness, and engagement with sustainability issues. It suggests institutional engagement as a potential avenue to explore for engineering educators.
  • Editorial

    Servant-Miklos, Virginie; Du, Xiangyun; Holgaard, Jette Egelund; Stegeager, Nikolaj (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
  • University Educators’ Professional Learning in a PBL Pedagogical Development Programme

    Guerra, Aida; Nørgaard, Bente; Du, Xiangyun (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    This study explored university teachers’ professional learning when participating in a pedagogical development (PD) programme. The PD programme, entitled the Aalborg Certificate on Basics of PBL and Curriculum Change, had a workload of 150 hours and ran for four months, involving 23 teachers from Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá, Colombia). The programme comprised four modules, delivered in a blended mode, and followed a problem- and project-based learning (PBL) approach, as well as being based on PBL principles. This investigation conceptualizes professional learning from the complex learning theory perspective, describing it as a complex dynamic system involving knowledge, motivations, values, attitudes, and beliefs dependent on social and individual contextual factors, and how these can lead to the implementation of alternative teaching practices in classroom (e.g., PBL). Building on that, this work addresses the following research questions: (1) What knowledge and beliefs have the PD programme participants developed about PBL? (2) In which ways do the developed knowledge and beliefs impact participants’ change towards PBL? This analysis takes a qualitative approach and uses multiple sources of data, namely participants’ portfolios and reflection essays, as well as a qualitative survey. The results show the participants developed a deep understanding of PBL principles and practices by experiencing them through the PD programme, and that reflective practice enables continuous professional learning and development. Additionally, their perceived challenges were related to time, as well as institutional support and infrastructures, in addition to student and teacher training.
  • Education as an Open Question: A Hermeneutical Approach to Problem-Based Learning

    Kloeg, Julien (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    In this paper, this theme of the open question is offered as a hermeneutical approach to problem-based learning. Most of the scientific literature on problem-based learning is in the realm of the behavioral-sciences. To the extent that the latter becomes the exclusive focus of research on problem-based learning, there is a risk of instrumentalization. The hermeneutical approach of this paper is meant to complement this field of research. The subjects of humanities research are not directly available to a humanities scholar, at least not in the way experimental subjects are to a natural scientist. This is Wilhelm Dilthey’s epoch-making understanding of the humanities in a nutshell. Philosophical anthropologist Helmuth Plessner, drawing on Dilthey, extends this insight to the historicity of human existence as such, summarizing the latter as an ‘open question’ that is always impressing itself upon us as human beings, but which at the same time cannot be answered definitively. It is through this process of asking and answering that we leave behind a history in the first place. I use these arguments to show that the theme of the open question yields a series of interconnected educational insights: notably the importance of subjectification, the social and historical context within which education necessarily takes place, and the construction of new knowledge and experience. These educational insights are rendered explicit and put into practice in problem-based learning. I hope in this way to develop a research perspective on problem-based learning as not only a set of behaviors, but as the scene of meaningful action.
  • The “Sweet Spot” for Reflection in Problem-oriented Education: Insights From Phenomenographic Action-research

    Duchi, Lorenzo; Servant-Miklos, Virginie; Kooij, Loïs; Noordegraaf-Eelens, Liesbeth (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    This paper examines the impact of a structured, multi-dimensional reflection track of a 16-week pilot programme in experimental pedagogics (XP) in The Netherlands. XP is an elective undergraduate programme in which students investigate socially relevant educational problems in local communities and design educational interventions to address these issues through problem-oriented project work (PPL). To accompany the learning journey, students follow a reflection track structured with workshops, learning diaries, and articulated learning essays, that covers cognitive, phenomenological, relational, social and global dimensions of reflection. The design of the track was informed by an interdisciplinary reflection framework combining inputs from cognitive and critical paradigms. To evaluate and improve the impact of this novel approach to reflection in problem-oriented education, the authors undertook an Education Action Research (EAR) process with the 17 participating students. The evaluation phase of the EAR was conducted using a phenomenographic design to draw out qualitative variations in conceptions of reflection among students who participated in the pilot. Focusing on variations of conceptions allowed the teachers-as-action-researchers to gain a fine-grained understanding of reflection within the XP problem-oriented setting. The findings reveal an outcome space comprising seven increasingly complex reflection categories. A phenomenographic analysis of the categories led us to conclude that there exists a reflection “sweet spot” inside which there is growth in reflection breadth and depth. Outside the sweet spot, students either do not reflect at all, or become so entangled in reflection that an infinite reflection regress appears to derail learning. We conclude by discussing the contributions of these findings to strengthening critical, socially relevant reflection in problem-oriented project work in the context of current global crises, focusing on the role of supervisors in fostering productive reflection. 
  • Socialization, Professional Identity Formation and Training for Uncertainty: Comparison of Student- and Clinician-Lead Problem Based Learning Groups in the First Year of Medical Education

    Reinsch, Stefan; Walther, Juliane; Oess, Stefanie; Tschorr, Wiebke; Nübel, Jonathan; Schwanemann, Jannis; Leineweber, Can Gero (Aalborg University Press, 2023-05-17)
    Clinical knowledge, group facilitation skills, and cognitive congruence are considered important factors for the successful tutoring of Problem Based Learning sessions. In addition, the theory of Community of Practice has become an important tool to approach social learning and knowledge integration in medical education and organizational studies. More research is needed to link these two strands of research. We look at novice medical students’ experiences and comparative reflections on student-tutors and clinician-tutors as facilitators of PBL sessions in a participatory, randomized cross-over design. Qualitative methodologies were used to probe the experiences of participants. In this study, the main factor for successful PBL sessions for first-year students was the creation of a non-hierarchical learning atmosphere, which starkly differentiated itself from the rigidity of a PBL structure organized around clinician-tutors and their hierarchically-imparted knowledge. In contrast, a more flexible strategy of student tutors and their constructive management of “not-knowing” enabled novice students to take steps on their own — of which they were highly appreciative, stressing how it allowed them to develop earlier autonomy with regard to PBL methodology, manage uncertainty, and create a shared identity as a community of learners.
  • Variations in Project-Based Course Design

    Son, Eun Hye; Penry, Tara (Aalborg University Press, 2022-06-07)
    Project-based learning (PjBL) is seeing increasing scholarly interest and pedagogical use in higher education, but instances of PjBL do not neccesarily seek the same educational outcomes. Using the grounded theory method, the authors plot five courses in a PjBL program on a matrix of course design characteristics ranging from Fixed to Flexible and Individualistic to Cooperative. They describe four major variations of PjBL based on this matrix. Recognizing that PjBL courses vary in their use of student choice and student collaboration, the authors make recommendations for assessment researchers and for teachers wishing to develop new strategies that fit their institutional and disciplinary contexts.  
  • Editorial

    Telléus, Patrik Kjærsdam; Søndergaard, Bettina Dahl (Aalborg University Press, 2022-12-19)
  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2022-12-19)
  • An Academic and Personal Approach to Supervising Project Groups

    Simonsen, Jesper; Storm Jensen, Olav (Aalborg University Press, 2022-04-07)
    This article investigates and exemplifies the personal side of our supervising skills. This is inspired from psychotherapeutic research specialized in investigating open-minded contact and authentic meetings. The article is based on our experiences supervising project groups at Roskilde University. Supervision is sometimes a challenging task that may manifest and confront personally-related issues. We advocate combining an academic and personal approach to supervising project groups. We provide a range of empirical examples from the supervising project groups, illustrating the type of personal challenges we meet. These challenges are characterized and conceptualized, and some concrete ways to deal with them are proposed.
  • Improving Employability for Students through Co-Creation and External Collaboration: Experiences and Outcomes

    Andersson, Vibeke; Clausen, Helene Balslev (Aalborg University Press, 2022-04-04)
    This paper presents how a ninth semester teaching programme created employability skills among students. During the semester, students were expected to collaborate with a company or an organization to solve a task set by the external partner. The students used their academic and analytical skills and competences as a part of working with the ‘product’ (pitch and report), which they also delivered to the external partners. The students thus gradually became aware of the competences they used. The collaboration with companies and organizations formed part of and was integrated into the courses taught during the semester. The theories, concepts and themes presented in the instruction during the first part of the semester could be used by students in their collaboration with the external partner, both practically and theoretically. Students worked with external partners for six weeks during the second half of the semester.
  • Temporary Transitions to Online Problem-based Learning: Advice for Tutors and Learners

    Kelly, Dervla; Conway, Clare; Harney, Sarah; McKeague, Helena (Aalborg University Press, 2022-05-24)
    We provide a narrative review of the crucial elements for online Problem Based Learning (PBL) and a reflective overview of factors to consider when temporarily moving to online tutorials, forming a practical guide for educators in the health professions and beyond. We give general set-up advice based on the literature and our own recent experience (tutor and learner observational feedback, departmental meeting notes, newly-developed written resources and performance reports) of transitioning between temporary online PBL and face-to-face PBL but note that the majority of this advice translates easily to many types of virtual, interactive tutorial. We also include contextual evidence and theories from existing literature, with a focus on online PBL facilitation, learning and quality assurance. Despite widespread implementation of online teaching, there remain unanswered questions about whether deep learning occurs. The focus of this reflective paper is to better align online PBL practice with the principles of contextual, active, collaborative and self-directed learning and learning issues to be pursued.
  • Students’ Perceptions of Problem-Based Learning in Multidisciplinary Groups When Seeking to Solve an Engineering Grand Challenge

    Crichton, Michael; Crichton, Hazel; Colville, Gregor (Aalborg University Press, 2022-03-11)
    This paper presents findings from a small-scale research study eliciting students’ perceptions of benefits and challenges of working in interdisciplinary groups to solve an engineering challenge using problem-based learning. Penultimate and final year undergraduates and postgraduate MSc students in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at a Scottish university, studying Robotics, Mechanical, Chemical,  Electrical  and Software Engineering worked in interdisciplinary groups of five on a project to provide solutions to the United States National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges (NAEGC). Students were surveyed twice, using closed and open questions before and towards the end of the project. Data were analysed using a thematic approach. Findings showed that most students saw benefits to problem-based working with students from other disciplines, citing increased awareness of approaches, future ‘real world’ professional preparation and efficiency in problem solving. However, challenges around scheduling meetings and concerns around cross-discipline collaboration indicate that universities should provide training for students before undertaking such problem-based projects, to ensure maximum educational benefits. In addition, greater emphasis needs to be put on students’ awareness of the added benefits of development of the ‘soft skills’ needed for future professional practice.
  • Exploring Approaches for Blended Learning in Life Sciences

    Brohus, Malene; Duun Rohde, Palle; Gregersen Echers, Simon; Westphal, Klaus; Ern, Rasmus; Jensen, Helene Halkjær (Aalborg University Press, 2022-11-24)
    Digital tools and platforms offer new solutions to design and conduct university teaching. This case illustrates how such digital solutions may be utilized in problem-based learning programmes within life science educations. Specifically, the case evaluated the use of live-streamed and recorded lectures, the incorporation of digital formative assessment in lectures, and the use of a digital platform to support experimental project work in a research laboratory. We find that digital solutions provide flexibility for both lecturers and students, advantageous options for collecting and sharing information, and for engaging students in their learning process. However, digital tools cannot replace all aspects of traditional in-person teaching, such as social interactions. Rather, when blended with in-person teaching, digital solutions have a large potential for supporting new forms of and approaches to both theoretical and experimental university teaching.
  • 360VR PBL: A New Format of Digital Cases in Clinical Medicine

    Davidsen, Jacob; Vinther Larsen, Dorthe; Paulsen, Lucas; Rasmussen, Sten (Aalborg University Press, 2022-10-31)
    In this paper, we present and discuss an explorative study on the use of a social 360° virtual reality (360VR) for supporting case-based Problem Based Learning (case-PBL) in clinical medical education. In the context of case-PBL, we argue that our social 360VR learning space extends the design and application of cases in medical education by including elements from project-PBL. Three groups tested the learning design as a part of the clinical exercises in their 5. Semester bachelor course. After the social 360VR activity, the students performed a physical examination of the collateral and cruciate ligaments of the knee like the one in the training material. Our preliminary findings indicate that the students immersed in social 360VR collaboratively establish a mutual understanding of how to perform the examination through identifying problems related to the examination and by taking responsibility for their own and the other group members learning.
  • Facilitating Postformal Thinking Through Problem-Based Learning in the History Survey Course: An Empirically Tested PBL Model

    Wynn, Charles (Aalborg University Press, 2022-10-07)
    This case study presents a problem-based learning (PBL) model that guides general education history students to practice and acquire more advanced problem-solving skills – those found in postformal thinking systems – and to apply these thinking skills to develop and share solution alternatives both to periodized historical issues and to current problems and issues. The article also summarizes findings from three studies that tested the impact of the PBL model on students’ cognitive growth, level of course engagement, and perception of content relevance. These findings include student comments on the impact their PBL experiences had on their thinking skills and the usefulness of these skills in problem solving. The article concludes by providing tips on implementing the PBL model in a college general education history course.   
  • Enhancing Students’ Problem-solving Skills through Project-based Learning

    Karan, Ebrahim; Brown, Lisa (Aalborg University Press, 2022-06-27)
    The goal of the study is to overcome two main drawbacks of traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pedagogical strategies using PBL - lack of student engagement and students who are not prepared for more complex problems. PBL teaching strategies practiced in an introductory class are assessed. Classroom observations and student surveys are used to determine at what level does the PBL affect students’ problem-solving skills. For the first half of the semester of the course, traditional lectures were used, during the second half, students are divided into experimental (PBL strategy) and control groups. The results of the survey and student grades are analyzed to determine a statistically significant difference between pre/post-study results. From the students’ perspective, there is a significant mean difference between their confidence level in solving problems before and after using PBL and the students earned higher grades compared to the students in the control group.
  • Entire issue

    Helligsø, Annemette (Aalborg University Press, 2021-12-22)

View more