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PBL and Training-More Than Just Peanut Butter

PBL and Training-More Than Just Peanut Butter

Have you ever wondered how you can make your training more effective without hiring a rock and roll band to entertain the students? Look no further than Problem Based Learning (PBL). PBL has been used and researched heavily in education and has found good adoption. Using PBL in a typical technology training environment is less common.

Let me explain…

Often times in training we assume that the best way to help our trainees learn is to simply tell them what we want them to know. But imagine training where instead of giving you the answers, you are given problems to solve instead. These problems must be related to the learning at hand of course, and a place to find the answers should also be provided. This is like turning a classroom upside down and making the student the teacher. Add small groups to the mix and you have a fun interactive treasure hunt that can yield big rewards.

Why would I do this…

One of the biggest rewards to using problems in your trainings is that the learning has a better tendency to stick when you have to search for the answer. When we are just told the information we have to find a way to attach that new learning to something we already know so that we know what bucket to store it in our brains. Without that association the learning has a tendency to go in one ear and out another. When you have to search for an answer you build your own connections during the process. You might think that building training around problems might be easier but the truth is, it takes some experience to be able to choose appropriate problems that will not completely frustrate your students. It is also a good idea to start with easier problems and work up to harder ones. Giving the student some quick wins will help them gain some confidence and also help them build upon what they are learning in the process.

If PBL is so effective why wouldn’t everyone use it?

The truth is, it takes longer. You can’t expect to cover the same amount of content in the same amount of time using PBL. It takes more time to allow the student to find the answers and make the connections, although the learning is more lasting, and deeper learning can be accomplished. Hence the reason you don’t see this concept used as much. I will tell you this; I have seen this technique used with much success. And although it may have taken a bit more time up front, the learning was much deeper and noticeably more thorough than other methods.

Give it a whirl…

What do you have to lose? Next time you have to do training, try using problems as a way to get your learners involved in the process. I think you will be surprised at what you see happen.


By: Kristy Bloxham, PhD

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