Creative PBL practices at Maastricht University

Maastricht University uses a problem based learning approach (PBL), which is a different way of learning from traditional education. Students work in small tutorial groups where they team up with ten to fifteen students to tackle real-life challenges. PBL encourages an active way of learning that enhances knowledge retention, activates and motivates students, and helps them to develop important skills and competencies. To help dynamics of group learning and knowledge retention, PBL at Maastricht University is based on four learning pillars.

1) Contextual – PBL uses real everyday problems. Hence the learning material is more relevant and will be easier to apply on real situations1)
2) Constructive – PBL is a student centered approach in which learners construct their own knowledge and the teacher or tutor serves as a guide on the side
3) Collaborative – PBL stimulates students to co-construct knowledge, and to share ideas and knowledge
4) Self-directed – PBL promotes self- directed learning skills among students. Examples are planning, reflection, evaluation of understanding, and managing information and resources

A video explanation of these four PBL learning principles can be viewed here.

In these video series UM teaching staff explain their creative approaches to PBL. They follow the UM-PBL pillars of a constructive, contextual, collaborative, and self-directed approach to learning. The videos resulted from two brain storming sessions with a large group of UM teaching staff members. These brain storming sessions were initiated by the UM PBL MOOC workgroup and aimed at discovering and describing creative PBL formats. If you have questions about creative PBL practices at UM you can contact Or you can contact our teachers for specific questions about their approach. The e-mail address for each teacher can be found at the end of their video clip.

Introduction – Creative PBL Practices at Maastricht University

In this one-minute trailer, Maryam Asoodar and Ilse Sistermans briefly explain Creative PBL Practices. This video introduces various creative approaches to PBL, developed and implemented by UM teaching staff. These creative methods are based on the constructive, collaborative, contextual and self-directed approach to learning that define Problem-Based Learning at UM.

Ben Janssen – Individual and Team-Based Competition

During their internships, master students specializing in surgery, mother and child or psychomedical problems return to campus on so-called home-based days. Team-based and individual competition structures are introduced to increase student engagement and participation. In this video, Ben Janssen explains how you can learn using individual and team-based competitions in PBL settings.

Herco Fonteijn – Tutorless PBL tutorial groups promote self-directed learning

The use of self-supervised tutorial groups for bachelor of psychology leads to more confident and motivated students, willing to pull their weight. Herco Fonteijn explains how this practice has been implemented in a PBL setting, and talks about challenges and results.

Miriam Janssen & Marion van Lierop – Facilitating interprofessional collaboration during work placements

UM master students in family and social medicine, collaborate with paramedic and nursing students of Zuyd University, preparing them for effective interprofessional collaboration. Mariam Janssen and Marion van Lierop talk about this creative PBL practice in this video.

Nicole Kornet – Flipping the PBL classroom

Nicole Kornet flips her classroom to activate students in their tutorial groups, promote discussions and promote a student-driven approach. Watch this video to see how online learning coupled with the use of role-play enhance student engagement and improve discussion.

Giselle Bosse – Student-driven research, presented through interactive multimedia

With the methods used in this class, students of social sciences feel more motivated and are encouraged to learn quantitative data analysis. Students work with the clients in the real world. Learners are connected to cultural and social organizations. They learn how to design a survey, do quantitative data analysis, Behave professionally and present their findings in a multimedia website. Interested to know more details over how this is integrated in a PBL setting? Watch this video.

Anke Sambeth – Student-designed formative exam questions

In PBL friendly exams, students help with designing the exam. Therefore, students make exam questions on their own. That would involve them in what is most important for them to learn in this course. If you are interested in knowing how that is integrated in a PBL session and how students benefit from it, watch this video.

Alexander Bruggen – Teaming up with company management

Students define a problem and later come up with a solution. In this course, the students team up with company management and identify a real-life problem. Students work in teams and have to present their solution to these problems to the board of the firms. In this video, you will see how students learn in a PBL context by teaming up with company management.

Nynke de Jong – A blended problem-based learning format

During the module care in Context, bachelor health science students, form project groups to tackle a problem presented by a real patient organization. The course format is a mix of face-to-face and online sessions. Watch the video to learn more about this successful PBL practice.

Andreas Herrler – The use of visual models and virtual reality

The Anatomy e-models are available in the virtual reality or augmented reality for students to explore and learn together in their own time. The method of teaching has been supporting self-directed, student-centered learning. If you are eager to know when & how these tools are used in a PBL setting you can watch this video.

Francine Schneider – Student-designed mini lectures

The students keep up-to-date with the content of the course and practice their presentation skills. In this course, students actually become lecturers. Watch this video to see how you can flip a classroom in a PBL context.

The videos are liscensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.