Before answers there should be problems first

Case studies instead of traditional, teacher-centered education focus on problem solving and students. We summarize the work of American researchers on problem-based education.

Reading time: 3 minutes

Learning-based learning has become a valuable pedagogical method. The method starts from the simple basic assumption that the answers must be preceded by problems. In problem-based learning, the learning process starts with the formulation of an attractive problem, question or puzzle. The goal is for students to discover the concepts and the theory taught by the course by solving the problem. The opinion of the supporters of this methodology is that students will recognize the shortcomings of their knowledge motivating them to better understand the conceptual knowledge they intend to pass on the course, which can then be used more effectively for real problems. This method dramatically improves learning efficiency: problem-based learning provides students with the opportunity:

  • to experience what they already know,
  • what is left behind,
  • to improve the ability to cooperate in the team
  • to develop their written and oral communication (by presenting their own opinions and defending them with appropriate reasoning)
  • and to be more flexible in their attitude to problems and their resolution.

The method gives students the opportunity to identify their ideas, methods, and abilities that they will need during solving real problems.

Based on its success in other areas, this method also has benefits in business and economics education. The success depends largely on what the problem is, the quality of the case study used.

Emphasis in learning

A distinction can be made between traditional (rather theoretical, subject-related) and problem-based learning.

The traditional education:

  • tanár központú: a tanár bemutatja a témát a rá adandó helyes válasszal/válaszokkal különböző körülmények esetén
  • teacher-centered: the teacher presents the subject with the correct answer(s) to it in different circumstances
  • the teaching method assigns problems to the answers and not vice versa.

In contrast, the problem-based education:

  • student-centered: the teacher expects the students to take responsibility for their own learning by searching for answers to the problem
  • nem kerül prezentálásra egyetlen üdvözítő megoldás, a problémához rendelnek lehetséges válaszokat a diákok.
  • there is not presented any particular good solution to the students, the students assign answers to the problem.

What is a good problem?

The problem should meet two criteria:

  • arouse interest,
  • requires students to develop and implement the most important concepts of the course in order to successfully solve the problem.

Good problems are not described in traditional textbooks. Setting up a good problem requires creativity. Expanding the concept of a good problem: it should be an ill-structured problem with three structural features:

  • The exact nature of the problem is unclear, the information needed to solve the problem is incomplete.
  • There are several ways to reach the solution.
  • Do not have a single acceptable solution.

The context of the problem is one of the most important elements in the learning process.

Use simulations as a problem

What makes the simulation a good problem? Because all of the criteria mentioned before are in it.

Lot of researchers have demonstrated with a large amount of research that the simulation is arousing the interest of students. The dynamic nature and competitive environment of business simulations also meets the criteria. Simulation can be described with the lack of information needed to solve the problem (e.g. the opponents’ future decisions are unpredictable) and the variety of solutions (e.g. a variety of price / quality combinations can be used to succeed). The structure of business simulation games which models the operation of companies in competitive environments requires students to apply and develop their business skills.

Used bibliography

Philip H. Anderson, Leigh Lawton (2005): The effectiveness of a simulation exercise for integrating problem-based learning in management education; Developments in business simulation and experiential learning