From problem-based learning to practice-based education: A framework for shaping future engineers

Llewellyn Mann, Rosemary Chang, Siva Chandrasekaran*, Alicen Coddington, Scott Daniel, Emily Cook, Enda Crossin, Barbara Cosson, Jennifer Turner, Andrea Mazzurco, Jacqueline Dohaney, Tim O’Hanlon, Janine Pickering, Suzanne Walker, Francesca Maclean, Timothy D. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem-based learning (PBL) has a history of producing strong educational results in engineering; however, global society is challenged by highly complex environmental, socio-political and technical problems summarised in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This obliges us to explore educational approaches that address complexity. Yet, confronting complexity is sometimes constrained within PBL structures. This conceptual paper posits practice-based education (PBE) as a whole-of-education approach embracing complexity. We present a PBE framework with three elements: (1) the context of an authentic engineering practice, (2) supporting learners’ agency in the process of becoming professionals, and (3) opportunities to work and learn simultaneously. We make the case for innovative engineering education through the implementation of PBE using the case of the Engineering Practice Academy at Swinburne University of Technology. We detail innovations in student experience as a process of becoming, curriculum and assessment, and provide advice on the application of PBE elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-47
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021


  • education innovation
  • practice-based education (PBE) framework
  • problem-based learning
  • sustainable development goals (SDGs)


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