POL – Learning formats with (basic) groups

POL - Learning formats with (basic) groups

WHAT actually is ...

There are many terms circulating around PBL. In order to give you a rough idea of what is behind it, we will briefly present some variants here. At TUHH we use two main formats within the framework of Problem-Oriented Learning (POL): Problem-based learning (PBL) and project-based learning (PjBL). We will therefore discuss these two methods in more detail below. You can also find tips and tricks for working with student groups here.

Jenny Rohde Fotografin (3) kleiner zugeschnitten

POL - Problem-oriented learning

Students receive a challenging situation as a starting point. They do not work off tasks but have to develop their own approaches to the solution. This corresponds to the working world of engineers, who are usually charged with solving problems for which they must independently develop solutions, evaluate them and weigh in among alternatives and variants.

Betonboot WS 2018/19

PjBL - Project based learning

Projects can be well adapted to existing courses. As a common form of work for engineers, the learning objectives are usually in the technical as well as the interdisciplinary area. Projects follow a clear structure, are self-contained and well suited to include practical aspects. Division of labor, project management and (interdisciplinary) teamwork can be trained and reflected upon here.

Fotografin: Conny Schneider

PBL - Problem-based learning

In seven steps the students are moved towards the learning goals. The students work in teams on challenging situations. The goal is an individual and collective deepening of topics. The aim is not to achieve a given, concrete goal, but rather to achieve a deeper understanding of the problem and to expand the students' basic knowledge.

Foto: Siska Simon

EOL - Experience-orientated learning

The students make experiences in different contexts in a protected environment. This can be a research setting, project or other teaching format that gives students the opportunity to gain experience without anything serious happening.


TBL - Team based learning

Due to the structured sequence of four phases TBL is particularly suitable for group work in large events. The basic groups - as constant groups - go through a sequence of self-study and group phases with feedback loops, which serve the teacher to specifically address knowledge gaps.

Photobioreaktoren auf der ACHEMA 2015

Challenge based Learning

Challenge based Learning is characterized by three main phases: Taking up a socially relevant topic and putting it into a concrete, practicable question, research phase and action phase. The students should make use of the latest technologies and techniques and present the action they have carried out (if necessary also publicly).

how do I actually...

PjBL - Project based learning

Are you interested in learning more about project-based teaching?
Are you doing project work and looking for a specific idea?
Would you like to get involved in the Interdisciplinary Bachelor Project?

The goal of our consulting is to bring together what is didactically meaningful with what is organizationally and personally possible, to make you aware of existing offers and to show you helpful methods. Our goal is to jointly find solutions tailored to your teaching situation.

It may be right to proceed in small, manageable steps whose effects can be evaluated accordingly. Or maybe it is time for you to think about an event in a completely new way and in this way develop new motivation for teaching?


The following questions should be clarified before starting a project in teaching:

  • Which learning goal(s) do I (mainly) pursue with the project? Are there any other courses that you would like to/could use the content of the project?
  • Is the project accompanied by other teaching formats (exercise, lecture…)?
  • Is it a mini-project to be inserted into a lecture series?
  • What degree of freedom (or control) does my project need?
  • Which basic conditions have to be considered? Can I work with tutors, for example?
  • How do I divide the groups? Random principle or composition based on criteria?
  • Which group size is reasonable? Is a division of labor important? Do I want to assign roles?
  • What do I make up the rating? How do I give feedback to students?
  • Against this background, what is the best procedure for my project?

"Team-oriented projects in teaching are challenging for teachers and students.
However, there is no other teaching format that better reflects the everyday life of engineers.

In teaching projects the students train important technical and interdisciplinary skills.

This makes the transition into professional life much easier for them".

Algae reactor in the first semester (IDP)

You want to combine theory and practice?
You want your students to gain experience with materials?
You want your students to put research-based learning into practice?

If you want to include practical units in your teaching project, it is first and foremost important to find out about the general conditions: Which material is used? Where is it processed? Who has to support the students? What premises are available? How is the procurement organized?

If you do not have enough of your own workshops, rooms and tools, the student workshop is open to you. The FabLab can also be used for 3D printing if required.

If you want to use the student workshop with groups, it makes sense to train your tutors in order to ensure a smooth process on site.

If you plan exclusively written, graphic end results, e.g. in the form of a project report or a poster, you should also discuss these aspects in detail with the involved tutors and additionally use WritingFellows. If necessary, we can help with the preparation of reports and protocols.

More practice in teaching – we accompany you step by step.

Classical project procedure from the teacher's perspective

  • Cooperation with other institutes, companies or experts (stakeholder participation)
  • Definition of the task in accordance with the desired learning objectives (task definition; rough time schedule; milestones; exam performance)
  • Consideration of resources and modelling of support, if necessary by tutors (amount of work and time required; training of tutors see “Offers”)
  • Provision of materials and sources (analysis of the actual situation)
  • if necessary, provision of “customer” requirements/concepts (analysis of the target situation)
  • Considerations regarding the composition of student groups (forming a team see also “Tips and Tricks”)
  • Explanation of the planned project process
  • division into groups if necessary
  • Explanation of the question
  • Introduction of the teachers and tutors involved
  • Presentation of the desired collaboration (e.g. consultation hours, rules for mail traffic, StudIP…)
  • Overview of usable additional resources (e.g. student workshop, group rooms…)
  • Support based on a clear structure e.g. milestones, consultation hours, experts, sources and contacts
  • Make a list of necessary resources (available and missing)
  • Use questioning technique and the “principle of minimal help
  • Consider “vicious circle” and different working methods
  • give constructive feedback
  • if necessary, support by workshop managers or trained tutors during the practical implementation
  • Demand (and schedule) optimization loops
  • Production of a prototype if necessary

Presentation of results, feedback and lessons learned

Are you interested in getting to know other projects at the TUHH?
Would you like to present your project to other teachers?
Would you like to exchange ideas with other teachers on specific challenges?

Here you can already find the beginning of a collection of some projects that have already been carried out at the TUHH. We are happy to include your project in this collection.

Experiences have been made, which we would like to pass on to you.

If you have further questions or are looking for a suitable sample project, please contact us.

Network meeting

Examples from the TUHH - Project based learning

Student competition "Electrify the flea"
Team project mechanical engineering
Interdisciplinary Bachelor Project
Project Traffic Planning and Traffic Engineering
Project in the area of communication networks
Project Civil Engineering
Abschlussveranstaltung (Siska Simon)
Final event cityWind (Project of the IDP)

Innovative Project Formats in the Master – Example “A-Z Project” by Prof. Fiedler

This teaching format is based on the TUHH’s characteristic features of interdisciplinarity, internationality and innovation.

It thus reflects the I3 concept, which the TUHH wants to advance in the course of further development. The voluntary Interdisciplinary Bachelor Project (IDP) also addresses the essential competencies with a similar design at the beginning of the program. The curricularly integrated pilot project in the Master’s program will start as a cooperation of several deaneries and significantly expand the students’ degree of freedom in curricular teaching.

The format should take up different ideas of the participants and make it possible to implement them. The ideas can also come from the work of the existing working groups at the TUHH (RuderING, e-gnition, PowerFarmING etc.)

Would you like to learn more about it or participate yourself? You are welcome to contact us.

Example “SEP – Project” by Prof. Thielecke

This master’s project offers a variety of topics related to aircraft systems engineering, which are presented to the students at the beginning in a kind of marketplace. You can then apply for the cooperation.

The assembled teams then discuss a topic and all of them use the V-Modell for project work. The exact design is up to the students. The support is provided closely by the participating institutes.

Innovative methods are applied and creativity techniques are used. If you want to learn more about this successful project format, please contact us.
Test of a virtual working environment

PBL - Problem-based learning

Are you interested in learning more about PBL?
Are you already using PBL and looking for a specific idea?
The goal of our consulting is to bring together what is didactically meaningful with what is organizationally and personally possible, to make you aware of existing offers and to show you helpful methods. Our goal is to jointly find solutions tailored to your teaching situation.
It may be right to proceed in small, manageable steps whose effects can be evaluated accordingly. Or maybe it is time for you to think about an event in a completely new way and in this way develop new motivation for teaching?

blog pbl

The following questions must be answered before starting Problem-Based Learning:

  • How is the PBL module accompanied by the other teaching formats (exercise, lecture, project…)?
  • Which learning goal(s) do I (mainly) pursue with the individual PBLs?
  • PBL is a complex method: Do I feel well prepared as a teacher? Am I familiar with the Siebensprung? Are all participants aware of this method?
  • Which basic conditions have to be considered? Can I work with tutors, for example?
  • Are my tutors well prepared for their role?
  • What do I do if there are more or less students than expected?
  • Can I use the materials of the ZLL? (PBL handbook for students)?
  • What do I make up the rating? How do I give feedback to students?

Classical sequence of PBL - SEven Steps

Key question: What does that mean?

Analysis of the challenge given by the teacher (picture, story, formula, film…)

Key question: What is it about?

Keywords, generic terms and special aspects are collected.

Key question: What do you think?

Each team member collects his own ideas for solutions and possible connections. These are collected and supplemented so that everyone can understand them later.

Key question: What do we think together?

All explanations and approaches are clustered and ordered by probability or other criteria.

Key question:What are our learning questions?

In view of the hypotheses, gaps in knowledge are defined and questions are formulated in complete sentences.

Key question: What answers do I get?

All group members try to answer the learning questions by doing a literature search and, if necessary, by consulting experts or using other sources.

Key questions: What is new? What has changed?

The team exchanges the knowledge gained, records it in a suitable form for all to understand and notes any open questions.

Examples from the TUHH - Problembased Learning

Basic principles of microbiology
Communication networks
Technical dynamics

Engineers have to solve complex problems. We want to prepare the students for this in our lectures. Problem Based Learning offers a structured approach, in seven formalized steps and in a group to develop a solution to a problem, a technical question. Collaboration in a team and on self-defined problems significantly enhances the student's motivation, methods such as own research are applied, learning is more sustainable and students are better prepared for their final thesis and professional life. It is a lot of fun for the students and for us".

tips and tricks

Work with groups at the TUHH

Many teachers work with groups. Questions always arise, which partly also interlock. Therefore we have only roughly collected the FAQs and our answers here. In an individual consultation, we recommend working out the details together.

The goal is for a group of students to become a team that pulls together and supports each other. In order to promote getting to know each other, it is usually sufficient to put students together, let them solve a mini-task together and talk about rules and procedures.
It is very important, especially in intercultural and interdisciplinary contexts, to clarify what expectations exist.

  • Who brings along which previous knowledge?
  • How do we want to shape the collaboration?
  • What should the desired form of communication look like?
  • What do the caregivers offer and want?

Unfortunately there is usually no time for reflection. It is only in reflection that the decisive further development takes place. Here the teacher should allow time for feedback. Only in this way is it possible to perceive positive experiences and successes and to address difficulties in order to offer solutions.

The appropriate group size is determined on the one hand by the general conditions (the support must be adequately guaranteed; the less experience the closer the support) and on the other hand by the task itself (the level of the learning objectives, the addressed competences, etc.)

If, for example, students are to learn to work on the basis of the division of labor, benefit from exchange, or learn roles, a size of at least five group members is recommended. An odd number is helpful if the group has to make many decisions 😉

As a teacher, I can also use opportunities for peer feedback. This has proven to be very effective in Team Based Learning (TBL), for example.

If you want to work together on the screen, it is recommended to form pairs and work with even group size.

It makes sense (especially in the Bachelor’s program) to always think about what you can do when individual team members leave during the semester. The smaller the group size, the more serious the effect on group performance. Nevertheless, attention should be paid to an ideal group size in which each team member bears responsibility, as otherwise the phenomenon of free-riding is encouraged.

possibilities are:

  • One adapts the task definition and omits task parts if necessary.
  • You distribute the remaining participants to other groups.
  • One also has an alternative single work in case of emergency.
  • Attention: What effect will this have on the achievement of the learning objectives and the final exam? A fair compensation must be made here.

Every teacher should think about this before the semester starts.

The group size should not be less than five people and the problem should be appropriately complex so that it feels reasonable for the students to manage the effort of a division of labor.

Division of labor also means that not every student deals with the same topics. It is therefore important to check whether this fits in with the intended learning goals or how a good exchange can be ensured (e.g. by having the individual sub-groups present and all others have to document their presentation in writing, etc.)

Either one specifies the work packages and lets the students decide who does what (in which case, however, they do not learn how to divide the work independently), or one leaves it to the students to divide the work, in which case it has proven effective to have this structure documented promptly.
Perhaps there are also didactic reasons to entrust students with certain task packages from the outset (e.g. in the case of interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary projects as expert groups). Then the joining together and the joint overall concept must be particularly focused.

Students should have the opportunity to experience themselves during their studies in different perspectives in a team. In this way, they can determine whether they have a certain role. They receive valuable feedback that helps them to realistically assess and improve their competence.

It also promotes the learning process to have to record a lively session in writing or to ensure a productive working atmosphere and order as a moderator.

The roles in the team can be distributed arbitrarily (by letting cards be drawn, stickers under the chair, StudIP, etc.) or you can let the students decide for themselves. In the second case, the roles (if it is a learning objective) should rotate if, at the end of the course, everyone has been able to enrich their experience.

If you plan with groups of eight people or more, we recommend using at least the roles of team leader and secretary. It is recommended to fill both functions as “double tip”. This prevents disorientation in case of illness, departure and both persons can support each other.

The analysis of my student body helps me as a teacher to put together successful teams. Depending on the task, I can ask myself the following questions against the background:

  • Does it make sense to divide the teams according to certain criteria?
  • Does it make sense to assemble the teams homogeneously (e.g. sorted by degree courses) or heterogeneously (e.g. inter-disciplinary)?
  • Is a certain prior knowledge advantageous (e.g. would it be helpful if each team had a CAD expert with them)?
  • How can I collect the information low-threshold?

Make transparent for which reasons you have set up the division of the teams.

There is no recipe against copycats. But it helps to distribute responsibility within the team in such a way that the individual achievements are recognizable.

  • How do I give feedback to individuals and the team?
    (professional and with regard to the desired skills and social competencies)
  • Should I include peer feedback methods?
    (students give each other feedback)
  • How can I support the reflection of work as teams?
    (e.g. with observation sheets or other tools)
  • Which criteria are observable or testable to determine whether the different learning goals have been achieved?
  • What is the composition of the grade at the end of the event?

There are incredibly diverse ways to build a feedback culture. Here a personal consultation by the ZLL is recommended, since together we can better prepare and consider the interlockings and feedbacks in an event.

Students who take on the role of a tutor must be prepared for this task by the TUHH. An exemplary network of training courses and offers has already been created to prepare tutors for their demanding tasks.

Also during the course it is important to maintain contact and exchange with the students. In this way, the quality of care can be improved and any conflicts that may arise can be better identified and resolved.


P(j)BL - Prepare tutors

Are you planning to use tutors in project teaching or PBL?
You train your tutors yourself and are looking for new ideas?
Would you like to have your tutors trained by ZLL?

We offer to support you in the preparation of your tutors. This could take the form of integrating your tutors into an existing training course – if the content and timing are appropriate – or preparing a short interactive input especially for your project, which we then design together.

In any case, our goal is to prepare tutors for their task in the best possible way. Because especially at big events, a project stands and falls with the commitment of the tutors.


3 hours – getting to know the tutor

We offer to support you in informing your tutors. We look for a common date and deal with the following components:

Professional introduction: What happens in the event to be supervised?

Getting to know the tutors: How can we support each other?

Introduction to the role: What is my role in this setting? What are my tasks and where does my responsibility end?

The training takes place during the working hours of the tutors.

1 day – Tutors get in the mood for your project

We offer you the possibility to arrange an introduction day for your tutors together with you.

Morning: New tutors are picked up in terms of content. The morning can illustrate the topics of the 3 hour meeting.

Afternoon: We can use this time to bring the newcomers together with possibly already experienced tutors* and use their experience in dealing with challenging situations. Together, concrete ideas for these challenging situations are developed and tested if desired.

The training takes place during the working hours of the tutors.

3,5 days – Tutor training

The training is led by experts from the Center for Teaching and Learning. The training covers four dates.

The first three dates are usually full day to allow for practical exercises and the last date is half day.

At the beginning of the training, the tutors deal with their role as tutors, the basics of group dynamic processes and the associated challenges and design possibilities. For the tutors of the different course formats, the specific requirements of the respective method are addressed.

The NTA catalog contains one course for Bachelor* and one for Master** students with two ECTS. Both training courses are available in both English and German.

*Team, study group or fun group? Basics of accompanying groups

**Support of groups in problem oriented courses

Practical group exercise on team roles (Photo: Michelle Schulze)

tools and resources

Konstruktionsmethodik-Input WS 2018/19

How can I support the work in the teams?
Which tools support me in planning?
What do I have to consider when choosing tools?

Each use of a method or a tool means additional effort and should therefore be goal-oriented and coordinated with the learning objective. If you want to try out a new method or a new tool, the effort and benefit should be in a reasonable ratio. Whether offline or online, we find the right thing.
Benefit from our many years of experience with the most diverse project and PBL types and group sizes. As a P(j)BL instructor, take advantage of the benefits when booking the K1520 room or the rooms in Channel 4 (ideal for teaching with short inputs in combination with presence group work). We are very familiar with all premises and their advantages and disadvantages.
We are happy to support you. Talk to us!


The literature list is currently being revised.

We also distribute two brochures/booklets on PBL. If you know of recommendations and links that might be desirable here, please contact us.

Siska Simon – about me

As a graduate urban planner at the TUHH I am very interested in interdisciplinary cooperation.
So it’s no wonder that I helped to launch the Interdisciplinary Bachelor Project (2012).

As a trained photographer I look closely and illuminate your project from different perspectives. Many years of self-employment in the trade parallel to department management in an engineering office also taught me what project management means in practice.

During my work as a real estate valuation expert I enjoyed writing court-proof facts. I gained my first teaching experience at a dual university and accompanied the development of a new course of studies.

Your contact person:

Siska Simon

040 42878 4628

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Your contact person:

Marisa Hammer (on parental leave until mid-July 2020)

040 42878 4628

send mail

Marisa Hammer – about me

Already in my first job after studying sign languages, educational science and ethnology, I looked beyond the horizon of my subject. I worked together with engineers and specialists in projects to improve offside and production processes. To work directly with those who are familiar with the topic – learning about everyday problems has inspired me.
I came into contact with the PBL method when I familiarized managers with the theoretical background of lean management through PBL cases directly on site in production.
Since 2012, I have been using this experience, coupled with my studies for the Master of Advanced Studies in University Didactics, to advise lecturers, module managers and course leaders here at the TUHH on this topic.