Comparing Educational Strategies

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Characteristic Inquiry-based Learning Project-based Learning Problem-based Learning Case-based Learning
Explores real world problems and challenges.  

May or may not.


May or may not.
Students work in groups.  


May or may not.
Involves active and engaged learning.  




Students are self-directed.  


Students practice and learn organizational skills.  


Students practice and learn research skills.  


Students develop communication skills.  




Approach allows flexibility.  


Process allows integration of technology.  


Students decide what they need to learn, identify resources, decide how best to learn from them, use resources to report learning, and assess their progress.  


Students have a significant voice in selecting the content areas and nature of the topics they investigate.  


Students have some choice in deciding what they will work on.  


Students focus on developing a product or creations, and complete a project.
Educational goals may or may not address a specific topic or problem.  


Problems are truly ill-structured – there is not meant to be one solution. As new information is gathered in a reiterative process, perception of the problem, and thus the solution, changes.  


Students make decisions within a prescribed framework.
Problems drive the curriculum.
Greatly encourages collaboration and cooperative learning.  

May or may not


May or may not. May or may not.
Is learner-centered and intrinsically motivated.
Approach to learning that focuses on solving a problem and acquiring knowledge.
A specific problem is specified by the course instructor or identified by the scenario/situation.
Using a case-based approach engages students in discussion of specific situations, typically real-world examples. May or may not.
Problems add meaning by providing students with the opportunity to see theory in practice.
Has a high degree of relevancy. (Problems focus on current events, student lives, and/or actual events at the local, national, and international level.
Has human interest, creates empathy with central characters and has strong decision-making focus.
Cases usually require students to analyze data in order to reach a conclusion. Assignments are open-ended; students practice choosing appropriate analytic techniques. May or may not.
Students engage in discussions of specific cases or situations; approach focuses on building knowledge through the case which requires analysis and critical thinking skills.