Imagine an education model in which teacher/supervisor/mentor does not teach the syllabus to students. Instead, just pushing them towards key topics, and students must study by themselves. The teacher only control/supervise students to keep studying in right direction, but no professional teaching.

This is something like supervising academic research projects at graduate level.

I am curious if there is a pedagogical model/category/method of this kind for education (at lower levels)? For example, is there any example for teaching by this method in any school or university around the world? If yes, what is it called? I had no appropriate keyword to search for it.

  • Nice question. I believe it largely depends to the level of students (the course level). First year students need more teaching than supervising.
    – seteropere
    Mar 6, 2013 at 9:53
  • 1
    @seteropere definitely, it depends on the level. I am just curious if a model of this kind is used for any course at any level. There are approaches, but I have not seen any serious consideration. For example, delivering a main course by this method.
    – Googlebot
    Mar 6, 2013 at 10:01
  • Is this the kind of method you were wondering about? ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education_update/dec95/vol37/…
    – The Ugly
    Nov 5, 2013 at 15:37
  • I would love to study in such a department
    – Our
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


Problem-based learning is one approach that fits your description. From wikipedia

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of problem solving. Students learn both thinking strategies and domain knowledge. The goals of PBL are to help the students develop flexible knowledge, effective problem solving skills, self-directed learning, effective collaboration skills and intrinsic motivation. Problem-based learning is a style of active learning.

A related approach is inquiry-based learning, which allows the idea to be used on a much smaller scale than problem-based learning, which, based on what I have read, tends to be rather resource intensive and require vast amounts of planning from the teaching staff.

  • very nice approach. I know this can be very effective for CS students not sure about the other fields.
    – seteropere
    Mar 6, 2013 at 9:56
  • PBL is usually too specialized (on a narrow topic of a specific problem) to fill the syllabus of a course. It would be interesting, if there is a course somewhere which is taught by PBL scheme.
    – Googlebot
    Mar 6, 2013 at 9:57
  • @ALL: do you mean course or degree programme? There are plenty of individual courses taught using PBL. These cover CS, engineering, medical disciplines, and possibly more. Let Google be your guide. Mar 6, 2013 at 10:00
  • @DaveClarke I mean course, but core courses, not elective.
    – Googlebot
    Mar 6, 2013 at 10:05
  • 1
    Actually, renowned Maastricht University's College uses PBL for ALL their courses! maastrichtuniversity.nl/web/Schools/UCM/TargetGroup/…
    – mcbetz
    Mar 6, 2013 at 10:33

At the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY, USA. There are two ways in which this can happen. We have an independent study in which the student will learn about a topic with some guidance from a professor and write a paper about it, this has a broad variety of possibilities only some may fall into your category. One thing that everyone does is a senior design or capstone project where there is generally a faculty adviser but the student works to apply what you he or she has learned and present at the end of the year. This is in many ways similar working on a thesis, but as an undergraduate will take less time and be less intense. This is used in at least in the engineering school and physics department.

There is somewhat a third way, but does not contribute to the students transcript unless the student specifically does an internship for a research group. This is undergraduate research, and the student will contribute to research projects ongoing at the university that have faculty overseeing. In this scenario you may be mentored more by graduate students than faculty or staff.

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