Belle Tuten & Dan Dries
SoTL Brown Bag, April 30, 2014
“Tell me, and I will forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.”
Chinese proverb
What good is knowledge
without curiosity?
Problem-Based Learning (PBL):
Rekindling Curiosity
“Just because you covered it doesn’t mean you uncovered it.”
– Hal White, Univ. of Delaware
Exemplary Contributions to
Education Award Lecture
2014 ASBMB National Meeting
Problem-Based Learning (PBL):
Rekindling Curiosity
Glass of water with ice
cube in it. As the ice
cube melts, what will
happen to the water
• Rise?
• Stay the same?
• Fall?
Problem-Based Learning (PBL):
Rekindling Curiosity
No textbook
Uses the primary literature
• Authentic, not contrived
• Historical
• Complex
• Relevant
• Requires/develops creative library/internet search skills
“On the Reduction and Oxidation of the Colouring Matter of
the Blood.” G. G. Stokes -Proc. of the Royal Society, London 13, 355-364 (1864)
Some time ago my attention was called to a paper by Professor
Hoppe, in which he has pointed out the remarkable spectrum
produced by the absorption of light by a very dilute solution of
blood, and applied the observation to elucidate the chemical
nature of the colouring matter… I proceeded to try the effect of
various reagents. The observation is perfectly simple, since
nothing more is required than to place the solution to be tried,
which may be contained in a test-tube, behind a slit, and view it
through a prism applied to the eye. In this way it is easy to verify
Hoppe's statement, that the colouring matter (as may be
presumed at least from the retention of its peculiar spectrum) is
unaffected by alkaline carbonates and caustic ammonia, but is
almost immediately decomposed by acids, and also, but more
slowly, by caustic fixed alkalies, the coloured product of
decomposition being the hæmatin of Lecanu, which is easily
identified by its peculiar spectra. But it seemed to me to be a
point of special interest to inquire whether we could imitate the
change of colour of arterial into that of venous blood, on the
supposition that it arises from reduction.
PBL: Example #1-Dan
• Spring 2015: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) I
• Sophomore
• Enrollment ~70
• Two sections?: PBL vs. traditional lecture
• Curare
• Pilot: BMB III in Fall 2014
PBL: Example #2-Belle
• See linked examples of work and the PBL packet Belle
used for Medieval Medicine on the SoTL website
PBL: Pros and Cons
• Transferable skills
• Deconstructing primary
• Encourages ownership of
• Retention of material
• Flexible curriculum
• Group work
• Different learning styles,
viewpoints, strengths
• Keeps instructor engaged with
current material
• Can interface with guest
• Content
• Lack of breadth
• Less structure
• Pace
• Requires self-motivation
• Group work
• Requires clear learning
• Requires careful choice of
primary literature to maximize
PBL: Sample First module
Day 1:
Day 2:
POGIL to prepare reading article
Demonstration – ask for questions/
learning issues
Scan article, then revisit and write learning issues
Day 3: Discuss, assign learning issues
Day 4: Debrief, revisit, re-examine learning
Individual writing assignment distributed
PBL: Sample First module
Day 5:
Day 6:
Day 7:
Day 8:
Individual assignment due.
Debrief, revisit, re-examine learning
Demo or POGIL activity (interface with
instructor-generated learning issues)
In-class discussion of article (recap led
by instructor)
Group assignment: group answer to
earlier individual assignment
In-class quiz. Final discussion.
PBL: Sample Grading Scheme
20% - Midterm*
30% - Final (comprehensive)*
*Of which 25% comes from a group exercise.
40% - Individual and group assignments
- 15% Individual writing assignment
10% - Attendance, preparation, participation,
- 5% self-evaluation
- 5% group evaluation
PBL: A Word about Group Work
• Group composition
• Peer tutor-facilitator (no hand in grading)
• Random? Instructor-selected? Self-
• Rules, contracts, and autonomy
• Instructor intervention
• Roles: Recorder, Task Master, Skeptic,
Technical Advisor, Fact-Finder
• Assessment: Individual vs. Group
• Problem-Based Learning (PBL) at the University of Delaware
(includes sample syllabi and problems, evaluation forms,
• CHEM-342: Introductory Biochemistry (Hal White, Univ. of Delaware)
• Duch, Barbara J., et al. The Power of Problem-Based Learning: A
Practical ‘How To’ for Teaching Undergraduate Courses in Any
Discipline. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2001. Print.
• Dan Tries PBL (A 1996 case study of an anthropology professor
trying to incorporate PBL into his class. Disclaimer: different
• Qualitative assessment on the incorporation of PBL into the UD
• Belle maintains a Zotero group with literature on PBL. Please
email Belle for an invitation.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)