Problem Based Learning has by now become a widely accepted pedagogy in many higher education institutions. There are, however, three emerging trends inviting us to challenge, develop, criticise or expand our conceptualisations of Problem Based Learning and how we practice it. The trends prompt us to begin asking for one thing: how should PBL in Higher Education be practiced in the near-future, and what are emerging examples of ‘next practice’ within PBL? Secondly, what theoretical and methodological frameworks do we need to understand, analyse, envision and to develop new PBL models and practices?
One trend is the ‘digitalisation’ of higher education where digital technologies are reshaping disciplines, but also how lecturers teach and supervise, how students collaborate, and how lecturers and students can practice PBL. New ‘blends’ between online and onsite teaching and learning are emerging enabling the development of new hybrid PBL models.
Another trend is the ‘institutionalisation’ of PBL in higher education. Rather than PBL being pursued mainly in single courses by individuals or small teams of lecturers we are seeing an increased move towards institutions taking a greater responsibility for rethinking programmes, the curriculum or even the entire institution according to principles of PBL.
Finally, a trend of ‘conscientization’ where PBL is seen as a means to raise critical consciousness around issues such as sustainability, climate, equity and social justice. Rather than simply an ‘effective teaching strategy’ PBL is increasingly seen as a pedagogy for students to engage as critical change agents with complex real-world grand challenges.
These trends together can potentially trigger the design and development of entirely new types of hybrid problem-based learning models and environments. For example, PBL designs that:
- Merge online and offline activities and spaces.
- Explore new types of collaborative engagements that go beyond the boundaries of a single group and engage students in complex networks of collaboration.
- Works across geographical, institutional and disciplinary boundaries to engage students with complex real-world problems or grand challenges, such as sustainable development, poverty, climate or social justice.