One of Merrill’s (2002) first principles of instruction is problem-centered learning. In fact, problem-centered learning is positioned as the environment that all of the rest of Merrill’s principles are applied within. The importance placed on the positioning of problem-centered design at the heart of the first principles of instruction is paramount in creating an effective learning environment. This principle creates the opportunity for a learner to involve themselves in real, practical work, and is supported by the work in cognitive psychology that suggests that learning is encouraged when students work on problem-solving in their learning.

In my practice this principle has been very useful. I have had issues when I haven’t been able to find what I considered an appropriate problem. I taught technical math, and found it problematic to come up with an effective problem. Of course, the textbooks are full of money based or quantity based problems, but I found most of them were frankly, boring. They did not capture my students’ attention. Have you come up with any math based problems that you’ve used within problem-centered learning that actually excited your students? Let me know in the comments!

Merrill, M.D. ETR&D (2002) 50: 43.