QBL – A Practical Solution to Teaching

By Coby Enteen

Project-based Learning (PBL) has gained a great deal steam and has been adopted and implemented in many forms, over the course of the last decade.  Teachers invest endless hours in dissecting topics, planning activities, writing questions, organizing information, consulting with fellow educators, correlating to standards, and learning new technologies only to discover that the PBL unit takes up too much time and is largely out of synch with the school schedule, requirements, and other teaching taking place in the school.  In addition, inquiry-based learning (IBL) has largely been viewed as an effective means for improving the understanding of science concepts, and developing much needed critical thinking skills among students (Edelson, Gordon, & Pea, 1999).  Although tremendously effective in some environments, the IBL approach involves a great deal of preparation and is largely difficult to implement.  The challenges presented by these two methods, combined with the lack of teacher time and resources has brought about a third alternative, which has been coined the Question-based Learning (QBL) technique.

QBL is largely based on the principals of PBL and IBL, taking into account the constraints of the typical classroom.  While PBL is designed to encourage the development of 21st century skills while promoting student thought and motivation (Blumenfeld, 1991), and IBL encourages learning that is based on investigation; QBL is designed to incorporate both methods through short and adaptable process, which combines traditional teaching with inquiry, research, product development, reporting, and assessment.  Solomon (2008) argues that “introducing and implementing PBL in a traditional school setting can be a complex challenge, requiring a significant change in teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning.”  In reality this required ‘change in approach’ has the negative affects of leading to the disintegration of effective learning practices and methods.  The QBL process provides a more practical and adaptable instructional approach, as illustrated below (figure 1).


QBL ModelFigure 1 – QBL Method

When effectively implemented, the QBL method provides an attainable framework for teachers to deliver content in a flexible, yet dynamic fashion.  Students engage in traditional learning activities for knowledge acquisition, transition into discovery learning and research, then work collaboratively to integrate creativity with advanced levels of thinking to both create and present products.  The discovery learning approach fits in well with QBL, because it allows students to actively investigate and explore new content, while developing sound strategies for learning the new material (McDaniel & Schlager, 1990).

QBL is an effective process for incorporating modern-day instructional approaches into the classroom.  The many constraints placed on educators, combined with the drive to improve education as a whole place a great deal of pressure on the teacher, who often finds it difficult to implement  innovative methodologies in an effective manner.


Blumenfeld, P.C., Soloway, E., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Guzdial , M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398

Edelson, D., Gordin, D., & Pea, R. (1999). Addressing the Challenges of Inquiry-Based Learning Through Technology and Curriculum Design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3-4), 391-450.

McDaniel, M., & Schlager, M. (1990). Discovery Learning and Transfer of Problem-Solving Skills. Cognition and Instruction,7(2), 129-159.

Solomon, G. (2008, 11). Project-Based Learning: a Primer .Classroom Technology News | Educational Apps | Bloom’s Taxonomy | techlearning.com. Retrieved Oct 21, 2013, from http://techlearning.com

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One Response to “QBL – A Practical Solution to Teaching”

  1. rekatubug114 says:

    As an example of PBL, my 8th grade sccneie teacher had an end-of-year project she called Sludge . Our lab curriculum had emphasized various basic analysis techniques, like paper chromatography, filtering, and finding boiling points. We were broken up into group of 2-3 students, and given a jar of sludge. There was a list of possible components, and everyone’s jar had 6-8 different things in it, which you were supposed to figure out, based on the techniques covered the rest of the year. I loved that project! One of my current courses is on principles of failure analysis, and is very student centered. Students bring in failed objects, and we’re going through the steps of how to effectively determine the cause of failure on several of them. The professor acts as a consultant: he won’t tell us what to do next, other than to answer between a finite list of options we give him. It’s a fantastic set up for this kind of topic, which is all about learning how to examine something critically.

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