Problem/Project/Practice Based Learning (P3BL)

Victoria University.

Dr Alex Stojcevski
Associate Professor of Engineering Education
Director, Office for Problem Based Learning

Tel: + 61 3 9919 4079

December 2008

AlexStojcevski VSMall.jpg

Vignette title and details

Problem/Project/Practice Based Learning (P3BL).

Full Time, duration of program is four years. In house PROBLEMS in First Year. Community PROJECTS in Second Year, industry and/or community PROJECTS in Third Year, PRACTICE on industry projects in Fourth Year.


Engineering (all streams of engineering).

Employment sector


Student numbers

Approximately 700 students (year 1 to year 4). About 250 students in First Year.

Credit bearing?

Compulsory, as all of the activities are in credit-bearing units of study.


Portfolio, Presentations, Reflective journals, Technical Reports.


There is no payment associated with the project work.

Number of staff involved

The Faculty has an Office for Problem Based Learning which consists of a Director for Problem Based Learning, a Professorial Fellow, and Learning in the Workplace and Community Engagement Project Officer. In addition, there is an industry liaison team (Academics) with expertise in all Engineering streams. Supervision is supported by discipline academics within the Faculty and a nominated industry and/or community supervisor.


Key Words

Problem/Project/Practice Based Learning (P3BL), multidisciplinary learning, student-centred learning, team-based learning, activity-based learning, analytical thinking.


Problem/Project/Practice Based Learning (P3BL) at Victoria University is offered to all Engineering streams in the Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science. Currently, this learning and teaching pedagogy is only offered to undergraduate students. The program has been running since 2006.

Structure of program

The P3BL model is based around the following learning principles:

Overseeing all these principles are engagement and practice. What the above learning principles indicate is that the problems and projects initiate the learning process. This begins in week one of Semester One in the first year of the program.

In addition, the collaborative learning principle indicates that the learning process is self-directed, and it takes place in teams of four to six students per team. The integrative learning principle indicates that the projects are interdisciplinary and are based on knowledge and skill. Recognising that fundamental knowledge is critical for all engineers in the first year of their education, the first year of the program is based on smaller problems, rather than larger ones. In line with the university policy of achieving a Learning in the Workplace and Community (LiWC) component across all courses which accounts for 25% of the assessment of those courses, the model introduces students to community and/or industry projects in the second and third year of the program, and that practice on industry projects takes place in industry and/or university in the final year.

Special features

This model has some very special features. One of the most important features is the fact that the problem/project is at the centre of the curriculum which illustrates an institutional or curriculum level practice. All other units of study act as supporting units to the problem/project. Integrating this with the learning principles of the model, such as interdisciplinary learning, it provides all engineering students to think and practice beyond engineering. Other special features include transferability of the model, and student centred learning. Due to the fact that the problem/project drives the learning process, it can be employed in any discipline across the university.

The success of the program is also very much dependent on the infrastructure support to the model, which includes appropriate teaching and learning spaces for team work, relevant technical support, as well as appropriate supervision or facilitation by internal, committed staff and/or external industry partners.

Future work

In the next two to five years the Office for Problem Based Learning, Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science at Victoria University will need to establish an appropriate database and relationship with industry and community partners to take place in the program.

In addition to this, the faculty will need to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with current employer and industry partners. The Office for Problem Based Learning is extremely keen to identify and support employers who are capable of, and committed to, engaging with students in the professional learning process. In addition, the benefits of implementing this model to other disciplines in the university will be explored.


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