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

  • Introducing Problem Based Learning in Higher Education

    Ryberg, Thomas; Nørgaard, Bente (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
  • Identifying needs to develop a PBL staff development program

    Coffin, Prarthana (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     Staff development is a crucial element for educational intervention. Recognizing the importance of staff development, this study aims to pin-point suitable methodologies in developing a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) academic staff development program for a higher education institute where PBL has become an intervention alternative. The study aims to answer the following research questions 1) how can university academic staff be assisted to acquire pedagogical competences for an initiative of the implementation of PBL curriculum? 2) What kinds of support do university academic staff need in order to maintain PBL implementation? Through a combination of a literature review, interviews with 6 PBL experts which emphasize the importance of PBL facilitators, and document analysis of reflection notes from 18 trainees of a PBL workshop, this study will produce a guideline in developing a PBL Academic Staff Development Program for an institute wishes to implement and retain PBL as the education strategy.
  • Conscientization, Dialogue and Collaborative Problem Based Learning

    Armitage, Andrew (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     It has been argued that Paulo Freire’s concept of conscientization, where critical awareness and engagement are central to a problem-posing pedagogy, provides the philosophical principles to underpin Problem Based Learning (PBL). By using dialogue groups and a combination of learning strategies to discover the nature of a problem, understand its constraints, options, and multi-voiced perspectives, students can negotiate the sociological nature of its resolution and how competing perspectives may inform decision-making. This paper will first present the background of PBL, before it introduces and argues for reflective and reflexive learning environments founded within dialogical practices. It then provides tales from the field that illustrate how conscientization is enacted in the classroom, before considering implications and the Ten Principles of Critical Learning’ for reflective and reflexive practice. It concludes by arguing that conscientization and the dialogical process are central to PBL in order to engage the individual voice, foster democratic practices, and for the creation of shared meanings and understandings.
  • PBL in Educational Psychology – Potentials and Challenges

    Szulevicz, Thomas; Jensen, Mogens (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     This article discusses practical and theoretical aspects related to PBL. In the first section of the article, potentials related to professional training of forthcoming educational psychologists following PBL-principles are analyzed. It is argued that PBL constitutes a good platform for creating stimulating interplays between theory and practice. In the second section of the article we discuss some of the theoretical underpinnings in PBL. We discuss whether PBL is prone to a ‘form-content-dualism’, in which attention is centred on the form (the problem) and less on the content of learning. Afterwards, it is discussed whether PBL potentially leads to an individualization of the learning process. Finally, we discuss whether the PBL-literature primarily tends toward portraying student learning as a matter of acquisition of knowledge, and therefore ignores the ontogical and identity-related processes in learning.
  • Transversal knowledge formations in Professional Bachelor Education employing Problem Based Learning (PBL)

    Larsen, Verner (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     This paper describes the principles underlying how various knowledge areas blend into transversal formations in two educational contexts employing PBL. Such ‘transversality’ has often been referred to as inter- cross- or trans-disciplinarity. However, these terms are ambiguous, especially in relation to Problem Based Learning. There is a growing need for stronger language to express underlying principles of knowledge formations and the constitution of such. The term transversality suggests that knowledge formations are not based on a relationship between strong independent disciplines, but rather on a number of subject areas that are combined during students’ PBL-studies. As such, the curriculum organized knowledge, as well as students’ reflections of various types at the level of teaching and learning, constitute certain ‘modalities’ of transversal knowledge formations. Two institutional case studies - Nursing and the Constructing Architect education - have been researched, compared and contrasted in order to demonstrate how institutional practices demonstrate different modalities of transversal knowledge in their PBL-courses. For the purpose of this paper Nursing Education will be abbreviated as NE and Constructing Architect as CAE.
  • The Interpretation of Problem Based Learning: A Case Study

    Li, Huichun (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     Currently, there are a large number of higher education institutions transforming their traditional educational approaches to PBL. In order to address the challenges for PBL implementation for a university, it is quite necessary to investigate how the managers and staff members interpret PBL in practice. Through the exploration of a university which is in the process of transforming its traditional educational paradigm to PBL, we note that there is a lack of unified understanding of what PBL is at the university. Several different PBL interpretations emerge and some of them are quite inconsistent with, or even contradictory to each other, which further pose significant challenges to the university when implementing PBL. It should be acknowledged that the diversification of PBL interpretation is unlikely to avoid at a university. The diversity of PBL interpretation would create large tensions at a university, but it also points out new possibilities for the university.
  • Entire issue

    Andersen, Jane Bak (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-09-13)
  • PBL and critical thinking disposition in Chinese medical students – A randomized cross-sectional study

    Du, XiangYun; Emmersen, Jeppe; Toft, Egon; Sun, Baozhi (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship of problem-based learning (PBL) and the development of critical thinking disposition (CT) and academic achievement in Chinese medical students using a cross-sectional randomized design. Medical students from China Medical University (CMU) were randomized to PBL or non-PBL teaching at the commencement of the study. After five years of study, CT was scored by a Chinese version of the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI-CV). The score achieved on a Computer Case Simulation (CCS) test evaluated academic performance. Total CT score was higher in PBL students (n=170) than non-PBL students (n=83) (304.7±36.8 vs. 279.2±39.4, p < 0.01). Subscale CT-scores were significant in favor of PBL in six of the seven subscales (truth seeking, open-mindedness, analyticity, systematicity, inquisitiveness, maturity). There was no significant difference in terms of gender on the total CT score, though minor differences were seen in subscales favoring female PBL students. PBL students had higher CCS scores than non-PBL students, but not significantly (112.8±20.6 vs. 107.3±16.5; p=0.11). There was no significant correlation between CCS scores and CCTDI-CV results. Male students scored slightly higher on the CCS test compared to female students (male 113.4±18.9 vs. female 109.7±19.7), but the difference was not significant. This study concludes that in Chinese medical students, PBL teaching was related to a higher disposition of critical thinking, but not to improved academic skills.
  • Using Web 2.0 Technology to Enhance, Scaffold and Assess Problem-Based Learning

    Hack, Catherine (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networks, wikis, blogs, and virtual worlds provide a platform for collaborative working, facilitating sharing of resources and joint document production. They can act as a stimulus to promote active learning and provide an engaging and interactive environment for students, and as such align with the philosophy of Problem-based Learning. Furthermore, Web 2.0 technologies can provide the tutor or facilitator with an opportunity to scaffold and asses the PBL process. However, whilst it is recognised that technology has an important role in enhancing each step of a PBL exercise, academic staff can be reluctant to use it. This paper provides some illustrative examples of the technologies that have been used to enhance, scaffold and assess PBL and their evaluation by distance learning and on-campus students at the University of Ulster. The benefits and limitations of using technology for both staff and students to support PBL are discussed.
  • Problem-based Universal Design for Learning in Technical Communication and Rhetoric Instruction

    Williams, Joseph; Rice, Rich; Lauren, Ben; Morrison, Steve; Winkle, Kevin Van; Elliott, Tim (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     It is crucial for Tech Comm instructors to address challenges of audience within the artificial environment of classroom instruction. Without a distinct and specific audience, course content often remains theoretical and abstract, and students struggle both to connect the unknown to the known, and to generate meaningful and effective communication. As a consequence, teachers often ask students to create "authentic" audiences in order to provide a tangible anchor for learning. Truly authentic audiences, however, are increasingly mixed, composed of constituents who have disparate interests and needs that must be addressed with multiple sophisticated appeals, arguments, and modalities. Theories of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be used to embrace these complexities meaningfully, strengthening students' opportunities for learning through scaffolded instruction and flexible course design.
  • Dimensions of problem based learning – dialogue and online collaboration in projects

    Andreasen, Lars Birch; Nielsen, Jørgen Lerche (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     The article contributes to the discussions on problem based learning and project work, building on and reflecting the experiences of the authors. Four perspectives are emphasized as central to a contemporary approach to problem- and project-based learning: the exploration of problems, projects as a method, online collaboration, and the dialogic aspect of students’ project work. A specific focus is on how the problem- and project-based learning approach developed in Denmark historically and theoretically, and how it unfolds today discussed through a case of the Danish Master programme in ICT and Learning (MIL), focusing on changes in the roles of teachers as supervisors, and the involvement of students in course and project activities.
  • Coaching tutors to observe and regulate leadership in PBL student teams or you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink…

    O'Shea, Noreen; Verzat, Caroline; Raucent, Benoit; Ducarme, Delphine; Bouvy, Thérèse; Herman, Benoit (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     The purpose of this paper is to investigate how PBL student teams develop specific leadership configurations when implementing interdisciplinary projects and whether or not tutors help in dealing with the group interactions that are subsequently generated. The data set was drawn from 2 cohorts of first-year students engaged in PBL activities in an engineering school in Belgium in 2011 and 2012. Following qualitative content analysis of tutor and student feedback and the use of sociometric testing, findings for 2011 showed that students developed 4 specific leadership configurations, each of them being positively correlated to specific perceived work outcomes. Findings for 2012 were based on using the sociogram as a pedagogical tool to enable tutors to describe and regulate group dynamics. We found that tutors positively perceive their role in facilitating production outcomes but are more uncomfortable when it comes to regulating the interpersonal problems that arise in student self-managed teams.
  • What teacher education students learn about collaboration from problem-based learning

    Murray-Harvey, Rosalind; Pourshafie, Tahereh; Reyes, Wilma Santos (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     Group work, an essential component of learning and teaching in problem-based learning (PBL), is compromised if students’ experiences of PBL are colored by dissatisfaction with the process or outcomes. For the potential benefits of PBL to be realized PBL group work must be genuinely collaborative to address students’ personal and professional learning needs. Australian teacher education students (n=122) provided written reflections on PBL that enabled representations of their group work experience to be mapped using an Attitude, Skills, and Knowledge (ASK) framework to gauge understanding of the collaborative learning process (as learners and as future teachers). Attitudes identified as necessary for collaborative learning were valuing others’ perspectives, interdependence, and learning about self. The Skills dimension characterized interpersonal, problem solving and group skills. Features of the Knowledge dimension were: generation, application, and dissemination of knowledge. Pedagogical knowledge was also evident through learning connections made by students to their future teaching practice.
  • The potential improvement of team-working skills in Biomedical and Natural Science students using a problem-based learning approach

    Nowrouzian, Forough L.; Farewell, Anne (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     Teamwork has become an integral part of most organisations today, and it is clearly important in Science and other disciplines. In Science, research teams increase in size while the number of single-authored papers and patents decline. Team-work in laboratory sciences permits projects that are too big or complex for one individual to be tackled. This development requires that students gain experience of team-work before they start their professional career. Students working in teams this may increase productivity, confidence, innovative capacity and improvement of interpersonal skills. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional approach focusing on real analytical problems as a means of training an analytical scientist. PBL may have a positive impact on team-work skills that are important for undergraduates and postgraduates to enable effective collaborative work. This survey of the current literature explores the development of the team-work skills in Biomedical Science students using PBL.
  • Producing and scrounging during Problem Based Learning

    Vickery, William L. (Aalborg University Open Publishing, 2013-08-26)
     When problem based learning occurs in a social context it is open to a common social behaviour, scrounging.  In the animal behaviour literature, scroungers do not attempt to find resources themselves but rather exploit resources found by other group members (referred to as producers). We know from studies of animal behaviour (including humans) that scrounging can be expected whenever animals exploit resources in groups.  We also know that scrounging can have deleterious effects on the group.  We can expect scrounging to occur during social learning because the exchange of information (which I will consider here as a resource) is essential to social learning.  This exchange can be seen as each individual scrounging from the other members of the group whenever the individual learns from the work of others.  However, there is a danger if some individuals learn mostly through their own efforts while others indulge in “social loafing” relying heavily on colleagues to provide knowledge. Here I propose that game theory models developed to analyse feeding in animal societies may also apply to social learning.  We know from studies of birds feeding in groups that scrounging behaviour depends on the extent to which resources can be shared.  Further, when scrounging is prevalent groups tend to obtain fewer resources.  By contrast, in social learning we attempt to facilitate sharing of knowledge.  We thus encourage scrounging and run the risk of reducing learning within study groups.  Here I analyse the role of scrounging in problem based learning.  I argue that scrounging is inherent and necessary to any social learning process.  However, it can have perverse effects if the acquisition of facts rather than understanding comes to dominate learning objectives.  Further, disparities among individuals within a group can lead certain individuals to specialise in scrounging thus undermining the functioning of the group.  I suggest that motivation, problem structure, discussion group dynamics, attention to results expected from students and careful evaluation can be used to encourage scrounging as a cooperative tactic while minimising its negative impacts on group performance.
  • Entire issue

    Full issue (Aalborg University Press, 2023-12-21)
  • Problem-Based Learning Approach Facilitating Sustainable Waste Management

    Løkke, Søren; Nielsen, Helle Nedergaard; Holgaard, Jette Egelund (Aalborg University Press, 2023-12-21)
    This work provides inspiration to foster Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in teaching practices related to waste management. Problem-Based Learning is about providing a learning environment where students can work practically and theoretically with problems of relevance for society. In this learning process, students themselves will define societally important problems and direct the problem identification, problem analysis, and problem-solving processes. The PBL approach at the engineering and technical faculties at Aalborg University acts as a case of inspiration to exemplify how the structure of a problem-based project can foster students’ competencies and agency to contribute to a circular economy related to waste.
  • A Case Example of Integrating Team-Based and Problem-Based Learning in Sex Therapy Courses in the U.S. and Austria

    Hertlein, Katherine; Suresh, Varsha; Brown, Taylor; Davis, Edmond; Hechter, Sarah (Aalborg University Press, 2023-12-21)
    Introduction: Team-based learning and Problem-Based Learning can be integrated for in person and online psychology or behavioral health related courses in higher education. Statement of the Problem: Historically, team-based learning and problem-based learning have been considered separate (and seemingly competing) activities and not often conducted concurrently during a course. Literature Review: A review of the literature on team-based learning, however, has uncovered some cases where team-based learning and problem-based learning were integrated together in a course. Teaching Implications: The purpose of this article is to present a case example in which team-based learning and problem-based learning were integrated together in two master’s level sex therapy courses: one in the U.S. and one in Austria. The article describes how this integration was achieved through outlining the activities of the class and the possible benefits seen based on self-report. Conclusion: Integrating team-based learning and problem-based learning was an effective method for teaching two master’s level sex therapy courses and may have relevant application to psychology classes and/or treatment-oriented topics in behavioral health. 
  • Using Scratch to Teach Coding in Massive Online Open Courses: A Systemic Analysis

    Arantes do Amaral, Joao Alberto (Aalborg University Press, 2023-12-21)
    In this case study, we present our findings regarding a massive  open online Scratch programming course. The course, which followed a project-based learning approach, was delivered from July 4 to 30, 2022 to 186 students in Brazil. The students were challenged to develop individual coding projects. Our research goal was to investigate teaching and learning course dynamics. We followed a convergent parallel mixed-method approach. We collected quantitative and qualitative data by means of questionnaires. We were able to identify five intertwined feedback loops that drove the educational process. Our main findings are as follows: 1) The development of coding skills was driven by the effort of watching video-lectures, remixing of peers’ codes, and by sharing knowledge between the students. 2) The project-based learning approach created opportunities for the students to collaborate and exchange ideas.
  • Students in Early Childhood Teacher Education and Their First Experience with Problem-Based Learning : A Comparative Study From the Perspective of Students in Kyrgyzstan and Norway

    Meyer, Grete Skjeggestad; Reigstad, Ingunn; Serikova, Leila (Aalborg University Press, 2023-12-21)
    This comparative study examines how students from Early Childhood Teacher Education in Kyrgyzstan and Norway value their first experience with Problem-Based Learning. The study is a result of the collaboration between ECTE in Kyrgyzstan and Norway focusing on student-active learning. The research is important because there are few if any studies focusing on PBL in Early Childhood Teacher Education (ECTE), and little use of PBL as a basic norm in Kyrgyzstan. Our data consists of students’ anonymous, written, open-ended questionnaires. These are analysed by means of qualitative content analysis. We found evidence that students value collaboration, and in this report, we describe their experiences with the PBL-method and suggest some implications for the quality of learning. We discuss and compare similarities and differences in students’ experiences in light of cultural differences.

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