In this paper a model for the implementation of a problem-based learning (PBL) course for a typical year physics one programme is described. Reference is made to how PBL has been implemented in relation to geometrical and physical optics. PBL derives from the theory that learning is an active process in which the learner constructs new knowledge on the basis of current knowledge, unlike traditional teaching practices in higher education, where the emphasis is on the transmission of factual knowledge. The course consists of a set of optics related real life problems that are carefully constructed to meet specified learning outcomes. The students, working in groups, encounter these problem-solving situations and are facilitated to produce a solution. The PBL course promotes student engagement in order to achieve higher levels of cognitive learning. Evaluation of the course indicates that the students adopt a deep learning approach and that they attain a thorough understanding of the subject instead of the superficial understanding associated with surface learning. The methodology also helps students to develop metacognitive skills. Another outcome of this teaching methodology is the development of key skills such as the ability to work in a group and to communicate, and present, information effectively.