Problem Based Learning (PBL) is typically done in small discussion groups of students accompanied by a faculty tutor or facilitator. A constructed, but realistic problem is presented in consecutive sections, mimicking the gradual acquisition of potentially incomplete information in real life situations. In some implementations of PBL, students must engage in inquiry to get information about the problem; in others, the information is presented sequentially. The students discuss the case, define problems, derive learning goals and organize further work (such as literature and database research). Results are presented and discussed in the following session. The students then apply the results of their self-directed learning to solve the problem. A PBL cycle concludes with reflections on learning, problem solving, and collaboration. A structured whiteboard is used to help the learners keep track of their problem solving and learning.
Although some predefined aspects of the problem are usually expected to be investigated, not all learning goals are strictly defined in advance. Problems should be ill-structured and should ideally be open to differing approaches and offer thematic sidelines.
The tutor's role is that of a guide rather than a teacher. Tutors are not expected to contribute their factual knowledge or opinions (except as fellow learners). Instead, they should direct the students by asking questions. Tutors also observe the group interaction and give feedback on the work process. Feedback and reflection on the learning process and group dynamics are essential components of PBL.