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PH Zürich

Congress Problem-based Learning

Promoting competences – Shaping the future

16 to 17 June 2016
Location: Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH Zurich)


Evaluation PBL Conference

Review – finding a common language for PBL

A two-day conference filled with ideas, discussions and inspiration on the topic of problem-based learning and related approaches took place at the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PHZH) in June. The sponsoring organizations Careum Foundation, PHZH and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) created the context for a rich and varied event.
The conference was opened by the Director of Education of the Canton of Zurich, State Councillor Dr. Silvia Steiner.
360 people from 19 countries participated in parallel sessions with a total of 70 contributions, while five keynote talks provided stimulating input.
PBL 2016

To mark this international event the Conference Management Team has edited a special issue (11/3) of the Journal of Higher Education Development (Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung), which includes 14 reports from the parallel sessions. A further special issue with sections in English will be published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning in autumn 2017.
The conference centred round three thematic priorities, which were expressed as questions:

  • How can learning environments with PBL promote skills development?
  • How can PBL be usefully integrated into educational courses?
  • What added value do learning technologies and PBL bring to cooperative ventures?

Work on case studies from practice and questions from everyday teaching provoked lively discussion in the parallel sessions.
The keynote talks provided significant new inspiration for teaching and research. Professor Henk G. Schmidt, Rotterdam, a pioneer of PBL, stressed that real acquisition of knowledge in the PBL context is closely linked to thinking ability. Prof. Dr. em. John Sweller, Australia, his 'opponent', called for clear guidance in the classroom. They were pitted against each other in a debate chaired by Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Stern, Zurich, but had no difficulty finding common ground.
PBL 2016

Prof. Dr. Anette Kolmos, Denmark, explained how the effects of PBL extend beyond the narrow context of classroom lessons: the PBL mindset influences the educational approach and strategic development of universities and schools. Her conclusion was that PBL is a philosophy.
Prof. Dr. Gabi Reinman, Hamburg, presented a model for the creation of terminology for problem-based learning and related approaches, and also focused on research-based learning in academic teaching.
Prof. Dr. Franz Eberle, Zurich, analyzed the importance of PBL for different educational contexts and showed how his ideas can be applied at high school level. Prof. Dr. em. Theo Wehner, Zurich, pulled all the threads together in an excellent summary to wind up the event.
This conference brought together a rich collection of international perspectives on PBL. It was plain to see that PBL is still a ‘hot topic’ even after many years, and the numerous prominent experts who participated brought it back into sharp focus.
Picture PBL 2016


Careum PH Zürich ZHAW