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Problem-Based Learning: Supporting Education Across Industry

By MindSpark Learning

MindSpark is an organization that designs and delivers extraordinary learning experiences. We are a firm believer in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and the way it supports both education and industry. The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning describes Problem-Based Learning as a teaching method in which complex real-world problems are used as the vehicle to promote student learning of concepts and principles. This differs from the typical way of teaching which is comprised of a presentation of facts followed by a test for memory. The University of Illinois credits Problem-Based Learning for promoting the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills.

MindSpark understands the importance of how Problem-Based Learning teaches students how to have an entrepreneurial mindset and contribute fully to a diverse, interconnected, and ever-changing world. It engages students, schools, and communities in authentic problem-solving. The teachers and school systems that have embraced a Problem-Based Learning approach spend their days working with students on projects that enable them to use their problem-solving skills, think outside the box, and get creative by applying the concepts they’ve learned. They present the problem first and support students as they figure out how to solve it. It is a way of teaching skills students will use in the future, based on collaboration and community. It is a way to answer the question that students have asked for centuries…when am I ever going to use this in real life?

MindSpark's Elements of Problem-Based Learning:

Discovery Based - discovering new things  Stewardship Led - being of service to others  Community Driven - supporting your community  Reflection Minded - reflecting on the world around you  Agile Infused – embracing change   Industry Centric - gaining help from industry partners and mentors

Learn more about MindSpark's approach to PBL here.

Problem-based Learning goes a long way in working to solve society’s biggest challenges. In this system, there are customized professional development opportunities that use a foundation of innovation, equity, sustainability, and entrepreneurship working alongside community and industry partners.

There is a gap in our educational system between skills taught and what is needed in the workplace. This is due to a disconnect between the educational system and various industries. By utilizing Problem-Based Learning, we can also use STEM principles to create viable solutions for real-world problems. STEM jobs are the future for our students. They are the jobs that will benefit the individual as well as the world. They are the jobs that will be in high demand, especially when it comes to creating change and looking for solutions to global warming, food scarcity, global conflict, and many other issues the world faces.

STEM and Problem-Based Learning have been at the heart of everything we do at MindSpark Learning. Our core values, mindsets, and the way we approach our work both internally and externally are laden with the core components of Problem-Based Learning. We believe in failing fast and pivoting, making iterations on the fly, developing unique solutions to radical problems, having a “yes and” and a beginner’s mindset, and giving kids lofty problems to solve because we know what they can accomplish when they are allowed to get involved in a solution.

In 2019, we began partnering with The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow program which is a STEM competition that challenges secondary school students to solve community problems using STEM. We were blown away by the results. The problem-solving skills the students use are amazing and they really come up with terrific solutions to problems the world has. Being given the chance to get creative, work together and brainstorm brought out many ideas that can change the world.

Ways Problem-Based Learning Benefits Both Education and Industry:

  • Facilitates student learning through authentic, real-world problem-solving that aligns with standardized school requirements.

  • Partners with industry leaders in the community to bring authentic learning experiences to school.

  • Builds positive entrepreneurial identities.

  • Fosters a growth mindset in students, teaching the importance of risk-taking, resilience, collaboration and stewardship.

  • Cultivates a growth mindset in students and normalizes failure.

  • Encourages collaboration through collective inquiry and reflection.

  • Achieves improved outcomes and innovative solutions while building empathy.

  • Fosters collaboration between industry and education, offering dynamic workforce development programs that leverage industry expertise and empower individuals with the skills needed to excel in their careers.

  • Integrates sustainability challenges into educational curricula, empowering students to tackle real-world issues while developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, providing a sense of ownership and responsibility towards building resilient communities.

Taylor and Francis Online conducted a case study about Problem-Based Learning. They determined that it is instrumental for developing skills that are important to being employable in the future. Skills such as working as a team, communicating effectively, being empathetic to others, using critical thinking to solve problems, being creative and flexible and open to ideas. These skills help students take their academic knowledge and apply it to future employment. They learn that education is lifelong, not something that ends when you get out of school. It fosters a love of learning that isn’t there through typical experiences. Problem-Based Learning makes a huge difference in the level of engagement and enjoyment the students get from their day.

Problem-Based Learning Has Several Advantages

  • Use of collaboration and experiential learning – students get to work together instead of alone and experience the failures as well as the wins as a team. This builds skillsets for the future where they learn to work together and cheer each other on.

  • Creates opportunities and helps educators embrace unique perspectives from students who learn from different vantage points – there are so many ways students learn and this is a way to show them that there is no right or wrong way. It shows them they don’t have to conform to someone else’s way of learning.

  • Interactive providing long term impacts on knowledge retention and application – because we all know that learning by doing is an excellent way to really experience the lesson.  

  • Engaging – students get to talk to each other, brainstorm together, support each other and work as a team.

  • Encourages risk-taking – students learn that to create change, you need to take risks.  Together, it becomes easier to do.

  • Builds resilience – experiments will fail, and this builds resilience as students try again and learn from their mistakes.

  • Teaches critical analysis, practical problem solving, teamwork and communication.

Through innovative workforce development initiatives, MindSpark Learning strengthens community resilience by fostering partnerships between industry and education, empowering individuals to adapt to change, contribute to local economies and build sustainable communities.

MindSpark holds Education Accelerators which are leadership programs dedicated to fostering organizational ingenuity within education systems. MindSpark’s aim is to guide participants, no matter what stage they are at, towards a much-improved state in a relatively short time, lasting typically 6-9 months.

Our industry partners play a pivotal role in building capacity and uplifting education systems. Our goal, together, is to reshape education so it contains passionate educators and students who are highly engaged. We know the value our teachers have in our children’s futures when it comes to learning. We understand the importance of having strong relationships with industry partners that can support our teachers in changing the lives of the students, resulting in changes to our world.

Samsung, one of MindSpark’s partners, hosts a Teacher Academy. MindSpark’s role is to provide them with innovative and sustainable professional development designed as a dynamic learning environment to encourage exploration and experimentation. The reason for this is because we believe teachers are the creators of a brighter future for students. We love to empower them with the tools they need to make a difference in the lives of students.

sustainable problem based learning experience for teachers and educators
Samsung Teacher Academy participant experimenting with sustainable water filtration systems.

MindSpark unravels the status quo and breaks down the complexities facing our world’s courageous thinkers, creators and advocates. We solve for workforce, innovation, well-being and inclusion.

Since 2017, MindSpark has impacted over 89,000 professionals and 2,000,000 students, built meaningful relationships with more than 750 industry and community partners, and served all 50 states and 88 countries bridging the most highly impacted to the leading-edge regions.

Are you interested in becoming an industry or community partner? The more partners we have, the more change we can create together. If you are interested in learning more about what it would mean for you to support MindSpark, just click here and fill out the form. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next decade in the U.S., there will be significant changes in the workforce. These will be driven by accelerated advances in technology, education policy changes, and concerns about sustainability. One thing will remain the same though: the need for talented individuals who are ready to work and equipped with the right skills for the career. Problem-Based Learning is a great way to ensure that happens.

Here at MindSpark, we plan to keep working with our educators, partners, and friends to increase the number of students in STEM programs, ensure they are getting the most from their educations, and that our teachers are just as excited and engaged as our students. That is how we will create lasting change.


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