Problem-based learning (PBL) is one type of inquiry-based learning. Many community college instructors use inquiry-based learning as an instructional strategy. There is much literature on the use of problem-based learning in undergraduate, graduate and medical school education, with a multitude of examples of specific techniques and problems to be addressed, but very little
on how to ascertain what level of PBL may already exist in established curriculum. The objective of this research is to understand how problem-based learning in lower division undergraduate science education is distinguished, in practice, from other types of inquiry-based learning and lecture-based teaching strategies. To accomplish this objective the researcher determined the
continuum of use of PBL in science curriculum from problem-based to purely
lecture-based learning and developed a tool to analyze existing science curriculum for PBL components. The resulting PBL Classification Rubric can assist instructors to make a transition to PBL easier. Hopefully, this may open the door to more research in PBL at the community college level, which will lead to expansion of documentation for future use by community college instructors.
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