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Problem-based learning is capable of providing unique results that are not achievable through more basic types of tasks. The modern world is global, and classrooms often contain people from a variety of cultures that need to be considered during education. One of the unique aspects of problem-based learning is its ability to address diverse groups during education. This paper will provide information on problem-based learning and its possible effect on cultural diversity.
Problem-based learning can be considered a sub-type of project-based learning. It is often a cooperative, hands-on method of education where groups of students are tasked with resolving real-life problems. Students who perform the tasks are encouraged to research the issues on their own and direct their investigations independently of the educator. The problems in such tasks are often complex and do not allow for a single answer to be “right.” The unique approaches that students can consider in this type of education are especially valued because they may provide answers to real-life issues that the tasks are often based on. Teachers have the responsibility to facilitate learning and guide students in their learning. Instruction should be limited, however, because the independent research that student groups perform is designed to develop their critical thinking skills. Such tasks are likely to be more engaging to students because they are free to explore the issue from an angle they find. Also, problem-based learning applies to almost any group of students. For example, pre-kindergarten students may be tasked with a simple problem such as how to fairly divide an apple between five friends. At the same time, problem-based learning can be used in a college classroom to research issues of pollution or debt.
Problem-based learning can be an effective tool for learning how to address issues that can occur due to cultural diversity. Issues of cultural conflict and diversity are almost perfectly aligned with the kind of topics that problem-based learning is designed to address. They are challenging problems that can be approached from different angles. Research on the topic has shown that assignments based on cultural diversity issues are capable of having strong positive effects on students. An examination of 40 students who were selected for participation in the study revealed that the majority of students began to feel much more confident in their communication skills when talking to people from different cultural backgrounds. The assignment encouraged the students to become interested in intercultural learning and issues that people from different cultures may experience (Busse & Krause, 2015).
The cooperative element of the task has also been shown to be effective in addressing the topic of diversity. People in the study groups were engaged in discussions that challenged various preconceptions about cultures that students had before the task was assigned (Busse & Krause, 2015). Peer interactions and the disagreement it brought allowed for the students to develop more thoughtful solutions to the issues than those that the students would provide individually.
The practice of problem-based learning can be highly beneficial to students. It allows them to perform independent research to solve real-life problems. It has also been shown to be an effective tool in promoting diversity as students become more engaged in the issues and their preconceptions are challenged by the discussion that occurs in study groups.
Busse, V., & Krause, U.-M. (2015). Addressing cultural diversity: Effects of a problem-based intercultural learning unit. Learning Environments Research, 18(3), 425–452.