As IT certification testing gets more complex, the concept of learning by problem solving becomes more beneficial for candidates — it encourages them to think through concepts instead of just memorizing facts and phrases. This will aid them in both their certification efforts and career advancement.
Here’s how it works: Instead of being presented with a lecture or straightforward reading or writing assignment, learners are presented with a problematic situation that can be entirely theoretical or rooted in some experience. (In fact, it’s often a combination of the two.)
Typically, there are several options that participants can take, which are correct or incorrect in varying degrees, but they have to choose one path based on what they already know and the facts presented in the scenario.
In problem-based learning, students’ activity is greatly intensified, and if there are any instructors, their involvement is heavily reduced.
Often, students will work in teams, arguing points and counterpoints and working together to devise a satisfactory solution. For instructors, the main task becomes to present the problem clearly at the outset and then offer occasional guidance or clarification as needed.
The advantages of learning this way include:
- Independence: Although it frequently involves group work, problem-based learning encourages participants to evaluate circumstances and express their options based on their own conclusions, not on what someone else tells them to think.
- Teamwork: It might seem contradictory that this method would encourage both independence and teamwork, but in fact, it does foster both. Even when individuals have to work on these problems by themselves, they have to take into account many factors beyond their control, some of which are related to other people (e.g., “What departments will I have to work with to complete this project?”).
- Complexity: One key benefit of problem-based learning is that it’s not simple and straightforward like a lecture or a question-and-answer session. Rather, it’s a process, one that has stages, setbacks and, eventually, solutions. And even after you’ve arrived at a conclusion, you might find yourself revisiting that to determine whether you really made the best move.
Although problem-based learning will vary in structure and sophistication, here are the steps it almost always follows:
- Exposition: The problem is presented and defined. Issues such as timelines, cost, resources and obstacles are brought to light.
- Exploration: The participants delve into the problem, parsing definitions and getting a clearer overall picture.
- Speculation: Based on the evidence and their own thoughts, learners will begin to offer up solutions and debate the pros and cons of each.
- Conclusion: Following much discussion, a resolution acceptable to all (or a majority of) participants is reached.
- Review: Formally or informally, and together or alone, participants will evaluate the decision in hindsight.
Do you have any questions about problem-based learning or want to share your experiences with it? Contact us at editor (at) certmag (dot) com with your comments.