"Who's On First?" Exploring the Concepts of Problem-Based Learning, Experiential Learning, and Lifelong Learning


  • Kenneth O. Morse
  • S. Dolly Malik


In the now famous routine first made public in the 1950's, American comedians Bud Abbot and Lou Costello discussed the fielding order for a local baseball team. In this routine, Bud Abbott asks the question "Who will play first base?" to which Lou Costello answers "Who is on first, What is on second and Why is on third." This answer brings forth the immediate question "Yes, but who is on first? To which the response is "That's right, Who is on first!" The routine then continues for several minutes with the emphasis on the different connotations of the word "who" - one is a question word while the other is a player's name. As with the Abbot and Costello comedy routine, the real definitions of the terms "problem-based learning", "experiential learning" and "lifelong learning" seem to have become confused with the passage of time. Are they completely different concepts? Or do similarities exist between the three? And, how are they related to professional education, if at all? Or, have all these terms merely become "buzzwords", allowing academic practitioners to work them into proposals to generate funding support for pet projects, or gain publication opportunities in specialized journals and at conferences. After briefly reviewing the historical foundations of the three "approaches" to education - especially in the "professions" of Business and Economics - the article presents a literature review in an attempt to identify the similarities in usage of these terms, highlight the differences between them, and show any existing interrelationships. The article concludes with a literature-based integration of the concepts of problem-based learning, experiential learning, and lifelong learning within the context of professional education - answering the question "Who is on first?"