Problem based learning is a relatively new approach to teaching kindergarten through to grade twelve students but has been used with university students with great success. This teaching method was first begun in a small town university in Ontario, Canada. The goal of this program is to get the students thinking without the professor, or instructor, teaching the lesson. Those who promote this concept of teaching believe it makes the students think more and absorb more of what they learn because they must root out the information themselves.
To properly conduct classes using the problem based learning method the teacher will put the students into smaller groups. These groups will then each be presented with a problem but only the barest of information will accompany this problem. The students then use a variety of methods, of their own choosing, to solve the problem. The goal is to allow the students the ability to learn by having to think through the problems on their own. Problem based learning is a method designed to increase student independence and assist students in taking advantage of their own strengths and that of the others in the group. It’s by working with this method that teachers hope to give students new advantages in their continuing education.
They want university students to use this method because they feel that learning independently to solve problems is something that will benefit them not only in their future careers but also in their adult lives. At the same time education professionals are thinking that problem based learning may be a good tool for children as young as kindergarten age and up. They feel that even simple problem solving in small groups gives younger students an opportunity to learn more than they would from a teacher who prints a lesson on the blackboard or points to a page in a text book.
The question remains to be seen if it will catch on in the lower grades where children are just beginning to learn independence from their parents and where each day their heads are filled with so much new information that they need to absorb. As small children can they handle the added responsibility that problem solving demands of them? Some feel that problem based learning should be saved for high school where students are looking for the opportunity to show off their abilities and independence a little more.