Making Learning Real with Problem-Based Case Learning

Why It Works

The PBCL approach builds on more than three decades of research by leading experts in learning and cognition. John Bransford, professor at the University of Washington, is one of the educators whose work underlies PBCL. In this video, he and others, including PBCL developers Jim Johnson and Ruth Loring, and school administrator Ellen Weed, discuss the fundamentals of PBCL.

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Why it Works video

Making Learning Real


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Here is a short list of relevant publications describing some of the fundamental ideas that have been incorporated into PBCL.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Expanded Edition). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.
(John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, eds.)

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  • Implications for Teaching — The value in combining metacognitive strategies, techniques to reveal and address learners' prior knowledge, and learning within a meaningful context
  • Adaptive Expertise — The recognition that the type of expertise most needed for success in the STEM workforce is one that helps learners apply knowledge and skills in novel situations and/or innovative ways

Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
(Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe)

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  • Metacognition — The value of encouraging learners to reflect on their own thinking
  • Deep Understanding — The comparative value of different types and levels of understanding and methods to assess learner understanding
  • Social Learning — The important role of social interaction in prompting learners to make their implicit thinking explicit

"Situated cognition and the culture of learning." Educational Researcher, 18(1), (1989), pp. 32—42.
(J. S. Brown, A. Collins, and P. Duguid)

"Designing constructivist learning environments." Instructional-Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Technology, Volume 2. Charles M. Reigeluth, ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983.
(David Jonassen)

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  • Problems for Constructivist Learning – The importance of how "messy" problems can generate a broad range of perspectives, encourage intense social interaction and metacognition, and lead to the development of multiple solutions
  • Adaptive Expertise — The recognition that the type of expertise most needed for success in the STEM workforce is one that helps learners apply knowledge and skills in novel situations and/or innovative ways

The Power of Problem-Based Learning: A Practical "How To" for Teaching Undergraduate Courses in Any Discipline. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2001.
(Barbara J. Duch, Susan E. Groh, and Deborah E. Allen)

Case-Based Reasoning. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 1993.
(Janet Kolodner)

"Educational implications of analogy: A view from case-based reasoning." American Psychologist, 52(1), (1997), pp. 57—66.
(J. L. Kolodner)

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  • Contextualized Learning — The benefits of learning skills and knowledge within the context of narratives or stories
  • Using Prior Knowledge — The positive impact on learning of applying prior knowledge in new situations
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two books: How People Learn and Understanding by Design
Two key works that describe the fundamental ideas on which Problem-Based Case Learning is based: How People Learn and Understanding by Design.