In Merrill (2002) “First Principles of Instruction” the emphasis is placed on problem-centered learning. Merrill (2002) states that “Many current instructional models suggest that the most effective learning products or environments are those that are problem-centered” (p. 44). This problem-centered approach included four phases, activation, demonstration, application and integration. These allow students to work their way though a real-world issue, demonstrate the skills learned and eventually assimilate those skills into their personal toolkits.

Reading the article, I reflected on the push within the department I work to include more experiential learning opportunities for students in every program. Though midterms and final tests still exist, we have moved more towards engaging students in project-based learning, where a real-world problem needs to be solved. In addition, even though the majority of our programs have work placements integrated into the program design, we have additionally started to integrate one course in each program, that allows the student to complete a project for a real employer. These projects have a problem or task that requires support from the student. Through engaging students in more work-integrated learning experiences, we find not only does this problem-based approach motivate the student, but it also helps students learn to work more collaboratively in a real-world setting.

I have listed many benefits to a problem centered approach to instruction. As educators, what are some of the challenges would you anticipate implementing a problem-centered approach?



Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.