Skip to Main Content
Ask A Librarian

Active Learning

Active learning includes any type of instructional activity that engages students in learning, beyond listening, reading, and memorizing.

Problem-Based vs. Project-Based:


Problem-Based Learning engages students in the process of problem solving: how to think about the problem and to find possible solutions.  The focus is on developing students’ ability to think critically, creatively and productively about a problem, while also nurturing team skills. 

Challenged with a complex, real-world problem, students work in collaborative groups or teams to understand the problem and propose solutions.   Often such problems do not have an obvious solution, but are examples of challenging, open-ended problems faced in our world today.  Students must analyze the nature of the problem, identify what they need to know and how to find needed information, reach informed judgments, and apply what they learn to generate ideas for possible solutions.

Project-Based Learning focuses on real solutions to a problem.  Once a problem is identified, student teams develop and demonstrate their understanding of the problem by proposing one or more solutions, often designing, constructing, and delivering a prototype. 

The focus is on building students’ ability to develop creative, realistic, tangible solutions to sometimes difficult problems through teamwork.  Once a solution is agreed upon, the team must decide how to realize that solution with a product or service.   Attention then turns to designing and developing a prototype of the product or detailed definition of the service.  When completed, teams may present their solution to the class or in a demo session to a broader audience.