What is problem-based learning?
Numerous definitions of problem-based learning (PBL) abound. Bould and Feletti (1991) define PBL as: ‘a way of constructing and teaching courses using problems as the stimulus and focus for student activity’. The process is essentially simple students work in groups to solve unstructured problems relevant to their field of study. They are required to define the problem, identify, synthesis and analyse information and generate solutions.
The process is not simply adding problem-related tutorials to otherwise traditionally taught material. Tutors replace traditional lectures with problembased scenarios supplemented with advice, supplementary reading and the development of generic problem-solving skills
Applicability of PBL to strategic marketing
The authors feel that PBL is particularly suited to teaching a strategic marketing curriculum for a number of reasons. Firstly, the process emulates the work typically undertaken by marketing managers in industry. For example, they are required to work with incomplete data, define problems and communication solutions.
Therefore, the process contributes to the development of professional marketers. Secondly, participants are normally required to assimilate knowledge from a variety of disciplines and sources (e.g. financial, production) into an integrated solution. Such actions are strategic in nature
Writing effective PBL problems
The entire learning process hangs on the ability of the tutor to develop an effective problem. It goes without saying that PBL requires the tutor to make numerous changes to their delivery approach, but without giving careful thought to how a problem is devised the entire venture is likely to fail. So, what makes a problem suitable for a PBL approach? Duch (2001) highlights five traits commonly associated with effective PBL problems
PBL tasks in the classroom
Normally, PBL requires the class to be organised into groups of 4 or 5. These groups work independently of other groups, with students assuming responsibility for acquiring and synthesising the information required to resolve the given problem. The group must engage in collaborative learning with support from a tutor. The tutor operates as facilitator as opposed to being the expert.
Typically, the tutor answers questions, suggests possible approaches to the problem and clarifies issues. A cyclical process is advocated as a means for groups to analyse and resolve the given problem. Firstly, the problem is presented to the students. The group then meets to discuss the issues, identify required tasks, information needs, etc. and allocate assignments to individuals.
During the research phase, individuals undertake their assigned tasks, which may include summarising journal articles, obtaining/tabulating data, conducting Internet searches. Group members then report back to assimilate and review their findings. The process is then repeated until the group is satisfied a feasible solution has been found
Example of PBL for strategic marketing
The following example provides an illustration of how a PBL problem can be framed. Support material related to this problem is provided in the instructors resource pack available from the publisher. Strategic management writer offers an introduction to the key topics and themes of strategic management
PBL example: Burberry
Burberry, the UK-based designer brand manufacturing clothing and other apparel, recently celebrated its 150 year anniversary. The history of the company dates back to 1856, when Thomas Burberry, a former apprentice 322 Strategic Marketing: Planning and Control Draper, opened a shop in Basingstoke. By 1870 the business had established a reputation for developing outdoor attire, and 1880 saw Thomas Burberry invent a gabardine fabric which was hardwearing and waterproof