Finally understand the relationship between Problem-based and Project-based learning.

Problem-based learning CAN BE a TYPE of Project- based learning.

Project-based learning can be prescriptive and low on the Bloom’s/whatever scale (as in an assignment – you will do X using Y method to achieve Z outcome).

It can be semi prescriptive (here is a prob, pick from these solutions or here is a prob – but only explore it in the context of the topic/subject we’re studying).

However, if a project is Problem-based – then all students start with is a problem to solve and they have to draw upon multiple disciplines in order to solve it. 

It is worth noting however, that if you look at the real world definitions of problems and projects, there is an argument that problem-based learning stands on its own and cannot be a subset of project-based learning. The reason being is that projects involve structured approaches to a pre-defined solution whilst problems are open-ended, messy and often require a program involving multiple projects to resolve.

Thanks to Annette Kolmos for her wonderful article in the European Journal of Engineering Education, Volume 21, 1996 – Issue 2.


  1. I’d go with Project based learning over Problem based learning anytime.