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Basic Assumptions of Problem Centered Teaching and Learning

Problem-centered teaching and learning places students in the active role of problem-solvers. Students engage an ill-structured problem that mirrors a real-world problem confronted by adults or practicing professionals. 

Problem-centered teaching and learning events are organized around a central question that reflects the ill-structured problem. The central question provides an instructional "backbone" that focuses and limits the content to be addressed. Central questions may be posed by the instructor or defined by students as they encounter the problem. 

Central questions should require informed judgments. They should be phrased in a way that requires students to acquire and use knowledge to solve a novel, challenging problem that cannot be resolved through simple application of previously learned knowledge. 

A single "right" answer to a complex, ill-structured problem is unlikely. Students should not be able to simply look up the answer. They should be expected to defend their solutions with evidence. 

Learning activities should focus on helping students develop the understandings necessary to construct defensible answers to the central question. Culminating activities should demonstrate student efforts to solve the problem posed by the central question. 

Student performances are judged against authentic benchmarks. 

The IMSA Center for Problem-d Learning (http://www.imsa.edu/team/cpbl/cpbl.html) identifies two related processes in the design and implementation of a problem-centered learning approach.

Curriculum Design

Teachers design an ill-structured problem based on desired curriculum outcomes, learner characteristics, and compelling, problematic situations from the real world

Teachers develop a sketch or template of teaching and learning events in anticipation of students' learning needs 

Teachers investigate the range of resources essential to the problem and arrange for their availability

Cognitive Coaching

Students actively define problems and construct potential solutions

Teachers model, coach, and fade in supporting and making explicit students' learning processes