UM's educational philosophy

Core principles of PBL: constructive, collaborative, contextual and self-directed

This video series is designed to explain the educational principles of Maastricht University (UM), namely that learning should be collaborative, constructive, contextual and self-directed (CCCS).

The intention is to guide the teachers on how they can implement these principles in their everyday teaching methodologies.

The videos on this page look at the definition of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and CCCS, and how they can promote better learning skills and competencies. In addition, they provide guidelines on applying these principles in course development (group)assignments and assessment, the organisation and delivery of lectures, and the organisation and facilitation of tutor sessions.

Depending on the target group, the videos can be embedded in a different learning context (theory and assignments), combined with printed, online or face-to-face instructions and learning activities. They can also be coupled with existing videos that show how some of our teachers have implemented these core principles. Watch our video series: Creative PBL practices.

  • Contextual – PBL uses real everyday problems. Hence, the learning material is more relevant and easier to apply in real situations.
  • Constructive – PBL is a student-centred approach in which learners construct their own knowledge, and the teacher or tutor guides them.
  • Collaborative – PBL stimulates students to co-construct knowledge and to share ideas and knowledge.
  • Self-directed – PBL promotes self-directed learning skills among students. Examples are planning, reflection, evaluation of understanding, and managing information and resources.

Problem-Based Learning

In Problem-Based Learning, students adopt a deep approach to learning. They form small groups to discuss a real-life problem or cases by activating their prior knowledge on the topic, relating the new information to their prior knowledge, structuring new ideas and critically evaluating their findings. Depending on the complexity of the problem, learners collaborate with their peers and seek support from their tutors.

Contextual learning

Discussing meaningful, authentic, or professionally relevant problems should be the starting point of problem-based learning. Contextual learning emphasises that learning should happen in multiple meaningful contexts. Students discover how to relate abstract ideas to practical, real-life situations in such a learning environment. Students internalise new concepts through this process of discovering, reinforcing, and connecting.

Constructive learning

By asking critical questions, reasoning, and checking contradictory information, learners become aware that there is often more than one correct answer and that many points of view are valid. The learners construct knowledge by reconciling new information with past experiences, analysing various source materials, and working collaboratively to deepen their understanding. Here, we emphasise guided exploration, reflections, and evaluation.

Collaborative learning

Learners engaged in collaborative learning share common goals, depend on each other’s contributions, evaluate each other’s ideas and monitor the work of their team members to complete a task and solve a complex problem successfully.

Self-directed learning

Self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take initiative in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

What can CCCS look like in practice?

Several creative PBL implementations can be found in this video series. We are continuously collecting new and different examples. If you wish to share an example of a new practice, we’d love to showcase it on our website, so please get in touch!

Video series: Creative PBL practices