Context, Problem-Based Learning (C-PBL)

Posted by Natasa Brouwer, on Oct. 5, 2021, 3:04 p.m.


The context-based approach focuses on the application of science as a means of enhancing scientific understanding of students’ real-worlds while developing students’ capacities to function as responsible participants in their everyday lives. Contex-based learning [CBL] uses a real-life context of a student as a teaching material, while in problem-based learning [PBL], a sub-category of the context-based learning approach, the context is used in the form of problem scenario that the student is likely to encounter in daily life (Overton, Byers, & Seery, 2009). The process of CBL involves students being provided with a scenario, and undertaking a student-led process of hypothesizing, which ultimately results in the development of the students’ own learning needs.

If a problem is presented in a real life context, the context-based problem is formed. Learning via context-based problem uses real-life contexts and problems to support students’ control over their learning (Overton, 2007). For students, this provides the opportunity to test theories through real-life examples. Therefore, as argued by Eilks and Byers (2010) it would be “highly desirable to embed the connection to everyday life, contemporary research, society, or chemical technology into our teaching by using context- and problem-based approaches to promote the meaningful learning of chemistry” (pp.236-37). There is abundance of evidences that context- and problem based learning (C-PBL) designs produce better learning. For example Belt et al. (2002) and Summerfield, Overton, & Belt (2003) have trailed C/PBL resources for analytical chemistry, drawing on contexts in industrial, pharmaceutical, environmental and forensic chemistry. These resources deliver learning outcomes in analytical chemistry, and also help the development of a range of transferable skills.


Belt S., Evans E. H., McCreedy T., Overton T. L., & Summerfield S., (2002). A problem based learning approach to analytical and applied chemistry. University Chemistry Education, 6, 65-72.

Eilks, I., & Byers, B. (2010). The need for innovative methods of teaching and learning chemistry in higher education – reflections from a project of the European Chemistry Thematic Network. Chemistry Education Research & Practice, 11, 233–240.

Overton, T. (2007). Context and problem-based learning. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Science, 3(10), 7–12.

Overton, T.L., Byers, B, & Seery, M.K. (2009). Context-and problem-based learning in higher education.In I. Eilks &B. Byers (Edt.) Innovative methods of teaching and learning in higher education (pp.43-59). Cambridge: RSC Publishing.

Summerfield, S., Overton, T &Belt, S. (2003). Problem-solving case studies. Analytical Chemistry, 75, 181-182.

Original author: Mustafa Sözbilir
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