Project-based learning can be approached in more than one way. Activities can be designed around inquiry based learning; as a problem-solving project or it can combine the two. Anne Gilleran in the video, How to Design Project-Based Learning, defines inquiry-based learning as a search for “truth, information or knowledge.” The process starts with a question, followed by investigation and exploration, which ends with a “solution drawing a reasonable conclusion, making substantive decision, or applying new knowledge or skills” (EUN Academy, 2014). The difference between this and what happens in a traditional classroom, is that students often co-create the question, and are expected to debate and challenge assumptions that emerge during the research. The presenter in the video also states that the question should avoid a quick look-up in Google. Questions should be challenging to answer. An example of a question posed by a student in an inquiry-based learning activity in a financial literacy class for adults might be “What should my investment portfolio look like if I want to retire in 15 years?”
The following video by John Spencer pulls from Harry Potter to illustrate the difference between IBL and a
In the video, you see a stark contrast between the traditional and IBL classroom. In Harry Potter’s IBL classroom, the students are experimenting, and actively learning through trial and error unlike the traditional classroom.
Problem-solving learning activities often result in product creation. The problems the product solves should be authentic (real-world). Similar to IBL, “the main principle of [problem-based learning] is based on maximizing learning with investigation, explanation, and resolution by starting from real and meaningful problems. (OğuzÜnver and Arabacioğlu, 2011). The focus is more on solving a problem than learning something new. It shifts from informative focus (IBL) to practical (PBL). There are elements of both in each; the focus is different. The question posed in the IBL model example above would change to something more like, “With an increasing number of people having to work during their retirement, create a marketing campaign that would result in 20% more Americans actively investing for their retirement starting in their twenties."
This second video by John Spencer provides multiple examples of problem-based learning.
In comparing the two project descriptions for the IBL and PBL tasks, "What should my investment portfolio look like if I want to retire in 15 years?" and “With an increasing number of people having to work during their retirement, create a marketing campaign that would result in 20% more Americans actively investing for their retirement starting in their twenties", one can see that the problem-solving learning activity would involve more research. Because it’s focus is on a social problem and has an interdisciplinary aspect to it there is more opportunity for collaboration in this example. However, IBL activities can be designed so that they are more collaborative. So, in the case of the IBL question about investment portfolio, the class could be divided into small groups with specific research tasks – different strategies, using a broker vs -DIY, group presentations on findings, and a peer review component as students construct their recommendations.
Both IBL and PBL can be done collaboratively, but depending on the question guiding the IBL, more thought may have to be but it to make it a collaborative effort. Certain problems in Problem-based learning, lend themselves more easily to collaboration.
EUN Academy. (2014, November 26). How to design project-based learning activities. [Video]. Youtube.
Oğuz-Ünver, A. & Arabacioğlu, S. (2011). Overview on inquiry based and problem based learning. Paper presented at WCNTSE method. In Western Anatolia Journal of Educational Science, 303-310. http://webb.deu.edu.tr/baed/giris/baed/ozel_sayi/303-310.pdf
Spender, J. (2017, November 12). What is problem-based learning? [Video]. Youtube.
Spencer, J. (2017, December 5). What is Inquiry-Based Learning? [Video]. Youtube.
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