Problem Based Learning


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  • Teachers design an ill-structured problem based on desired curriculum outcomes, learner characteristics, and compelling, problematic situations from the real world Teachers develop a sketch or template of teaching and learning events in anticipation of students’ learning needs Teachers investigate the range of resources essential to the problem and arrange for their availability
  • Students confront a problem. In groups, students organize prior knowledge and attempt to identify the nature of the problem. Students pose questions about what they do not understand. Students define the problem Students design a plan to solve the problem and identify the resources they need. Students begin to gather information as they work to solve the problem Students construct potential solutions and choose the ‘best fit’
  • Any subject, any grade Lets students be genuine enquirers. Teachers act as guides while students direct their own inquiry. Goes beyond content. Fosters real-world skills such as group-work, communication, creativity, critical thinking. Ethical issues are embedded. Students are challenged in their attitudes. Students have to take risks. Assessment as Learning: promotes student metacognition and self-regulated learning by asking students to generate their own strategies
  • Empowers students to take responsibility for their own learning Bottom line: Problem-solvers make good citizens. We want to create life-long learners who actively and constructively contribute to society. The ability to solve problems is a skill desperately needed for a well-adjusted and productive society where people look for solutions instead of who to blame. Students are better equipped to take on the responsibilities of mature professional life Students are encouraged to develop the skill of transferring knowledge into new domains, a skill that students can carry with them throughout their lifetimes.
  • Questions have no right answer Students are social beings. PBL gets them working in small groups and using their social skills in meaningful ways Students have an active role in determining the pathway of their learning Answers questions like “Why do we need to learn this?” “What does what I am doing in school have to do with anything in the real world?”
  • Medical schools – to teach skills as well as knowledge and give students practical experience with the material they needed to learn Teachers who use PBL have realized that when students work in groups to figure things out for themselves and apply information learned, they remember it. Furthermore, curriculum has moved from coverage to skill development. The way the world works now is about working together. PBL teaches collaboration, how to approach a problem, cooperation, responsibility.
  • Constructivist theory – students construct their own meaning, are actively involved in the learning process Students are challenged to direct their own learning Students must search out the information to be learned PBL is powerful. It takes teachers and students a while to embrace it, but once they do, students are motivated and involved and teachers are energized. It is rewarding to see students take ownership of their learning and watch them take pride in figuring things out for themselves in meaningful ways.
  • Inquiry-based learning is any form of learning that puts the student in a position of discovering knowledge for him or herself. Inquiry-based learning is an umbrella term. One subset is cooperative or collaborative learning. Below that are Project-Based learning, PBL and Case Studies. Each of these has it’s own unique characteristics. In all types of inquiry-based learning, however, education begins with the curiosity of the learner.
  • Students need to be given an important role in solving the problem. Students take on the role of lawyer, scientist, or some powerful person and journey through what it is like to be that person. They experience their point of view, emotions, reactions. Must be a key decision maker, someone with authority to make decisions, responsibility for the problem, and accountability to do something about it. Who the stakeholder is will determine in large part the content, size of the problem and what students will get to do as apprentices. A mathematician most likely will not be addressing issues surrounding The Civil Rights movement.
  • Needs to get students engaged and curious Needs an emotional component to motivate students’ engagement and curiosity There is no right answer
  • The teacher’s role in PBL is to help students work towards their own understanding of the materia. Asking questions and prompting students helps them to think about their own thinking and come to well-thought out and logical conclusions.
  • The problem should be complicated by the constraints and focus students’ efforts.
  • We will come back to assessment in more detail in a while.
  • Facilitate introduction to LOTF problem. Give 5 minutes to interact with the letter. Introduce Learning Issues Board Give groups 10 minutes to work on this Come together to consolidate data on the white board version of the Learning Issues Board Ask “Based on what you know, what would your hunch be? What is going on?” Summarize some basic details about the story. “What is the problem presented in the letter for us to solve? Write a problem statement.” Give groups several minutes to write problem statements. Come together and ask for possible statements, work towards refining a single statement. In an actual lesson like this, I would then ask you to identify a plan of action for solving the problem. We would come up with some action steps and then you would work through them towards some possible solutions. Let’s look at what the Flow of the Problem might look like.
  • Understand the Problem – what we just did
  • Note: because a good problem is ambiguous, students may require more information before they can define the problem. In this case, the teacher may provide the information, or students may do some background research, like beginning to read the novel.
  • Additional information is provided to clarify the problem and identify constraints.
  • Guide students in defining the learning objectives for the unit. What subject knowledge will they need to solve the problem? It is possible to do this for the students, but as with project-based learning, it is more meaningful when objectives and criteria come from the students and are validated by the teacher.
  • Most of the information needed to solve this problem will come from the novel and involve using reading strategies. Supplementary sources can be used to explore and explain deeper meanings, for example As students encounter themes in the novel, each can be explored in depth As they grapple with the question of how the deaths happened, they could gather research from experts such as Darwin or William Golding himself to understand the allegorical meaning and boys’ decent into savagery
  • LOTF – who killed Simon & Piggy? PBL novel study (reading, writing, oral language) Ebola – how to contain/stop the Ebola outbreak: understand nature of the virus, statistics/mortality rate for different solutions, cultural values & beliefs surrounding death & burial that impede prevention and education The Black Death – what is causing these deaths? Historical place & time, probability, how disease is spread Mosquito Coast – Should the school be closed due to fear of West Nile Virus and potential mosquito breeding grounds found on school site: mapping, mosquito life-cycle, graph risk factors for mosquito breeding sites Genetic Disorder – I will go into more detail on this problem later on.
  • Riot over law passed drafting men to fight in Civil War How to neutralize an acid spill on the highway Nazi regime banned modern art for being un-German
  • Riot over law passed drafting men to fight in Civil War How to neutralize an acid spill on the highway Nazi regime banned modern art for being un-German
  • Look at your questions or projects and analyze them. What is the issue you are asking about/targeting? How could that issue be turned into a problem?
  • Quick overview
  • What are the issues you have identified? What content focus would work best? Look at your PLOs. What options are there for targeting them? I have identified ecology & ecosystems in science as my focus. Within this, I will focus on salmon and streams. Students will need to learn about salmon life-cycle, how ecosystems work, etc.
  • What role could students take that would give them authority and accountability in solving a problem in that content area?
  • Once you have chosen a focus and identified the stakeholder role, you can write your problem introduction. Here is an example. Does it cover all the issues you want it to? What will students identify as “know, need to know, action plan”? How can you revise the problem to include them?
  • Now that you have identified the problem, you need a plan. What are students going to use to solve the problem? Where will they look? What will they need to do? Resources could be selected and made available to students in the classroom or in the library. Oftentimes, much of what students need to know can come from the course textbook. Depending on the skills you want your students to develop, this could be a simple approach to research. In this case, I pulled books from the library that taught about stream ecosystems, salmon, ecology, water pollution, and habitat degradation. Are there certain activities that they will need to do to develop knowledge or demonstrate their learning? Lay these out so you can communicate them to the students. It is okay to define action steps for the students, but I encourage you to include them in the process by asking them what they think their plan of action should be. Students don’t automatically learn problem-solving or group skills because they are in a PBL group. They need guidance on how to work effectively in a group. I like to give my students group roles and do periodic group reflections on how each group member is contributing.
  • In a PBL unit, there are 4 different areas to assess. Some can be assessed together, others may be better done separately. Assessment of facts could include questions or quizzes. I have included a handout with some sample assessment tools for assessing skills, analysis and reflection. Must assess on knowledge and skills which are what students are learning. Cannot assess just knowledge. Remember, the goals of the unit should be addressed in problem introduction when students are determining what they need to know and the activities they are going to use to get there. This can be in the form of rubrics, ones that you and the students can then use to assess their progress both formatively and summatively. PBL is great for using formative assessment. Because there is such a focus on the process and students are encouraged to reflect on their thinking, there will be many opportunities for assessment for and as learning. One approach to PBL assessment is portfolios. Everything the student produces can be kept in a folder for the teacher to assess progress in each of these areas throughout the unit.
  • In the skills area of PBL, there is a need for scaffolds. The teacher as guide needs to provide students with tools and support to work through the problem. Ongoing formative assessment will aid the teacher in selecting the proper tools and providing the level of instruction students need. There will be times when direct instruction is required to teach students the knowledge or skills needed to move forward in the problem. This is okay as long as the information is being incorporated into the work the students are doing and is not a stand-alone lecture. 1. Research notes 2. Reading resources and textbook. Identifying main ideas and supporting details 3. Mini-lessons/lectures on topics identified by students or suggested by you 4. Sharing research 5. Organizing ideas and information to see the big picture. Draw connections, define the problem. 6. Make informed and logical guesses, form hunches to help in solving the problem 7. Use these strategies to help students put together all the information in a clear and meaningful way. 8. Present the solution. 9. Monitor the problem-solving process by getting students to think about their own thinking. What have they learned? How has the problem changed? What do they now think?
  • In the Genetic Disorder Problem, students learn about reproduction and genetic disorders. The students are introduced to the problem. They form hunches about the problem and identify what they know and need to know. Students will be given the test results to start examining the situation and work to define the problem. Problem definition will include a problem statement such as “Find out and explain to the parents in understandable language what is wrong with the baby, what caused it, and what could be done to prevent it in future pregnancies”
  • Students will determine what they need to do such as “identifying the genetic disorder”. The teacher will guide the students in setting criteria for each task – cut and paste the chromosomes and arrange them according to length As students explore, the problem may become richer in detail and be modified to reflect these changes
  • Part of the problem definition should include how to explain the test results to the couple and answer their questions. The resolution will involve putting together a letter or presentation to the couple.
  • Problem Based Learning

    1. 1. Problem-Based Learning Presented by Amanda Ballard
    2. 2. “True learning is based ondiscovery . . . rather than thetransmission of knowledge.”John Dewey
    3. 3. Shape of the Day• What is Problem-Based Learning?• Why PBL?• Components of a PBL unit• A Sample PBL Unit• How to Design & Teach a PBL unit
    4. 4. What is PBL?• Inquiry-based• Begins with an ill-structured problem
    5. 5. The Ill-structured ProblemIs based on• desired learning outcomes• learner characteristics• compelling, real world situations
    6. 6. Role of the Teacher• Designs the problem• Anticipates teaching & learning events• Investigates & gathers resources• Models and coaches students
    7. 7. Role of the Students• Confront the problem• Determine know / need to know• Define the problem• Design a plan to solve the problem• Gather information• Construct potential solutions• Select & present the ‘best fit’
    8. 8. Advantages of PBL• Any subject, any grade• Learner-centred• Students acquire content knowledge, skills and attitudes• Assessment as Learning
    9. 9. Bottom Line: PBL fosters life-long learners, and…life-long learners make good citizens!
    10. 10. Why Students Like It• Learning is driven by challenging, open-ended questions• Students collaborate• Students’ learning is self-directed• It’s authentic & relevant!
    11. 11. History of PBL• 1960’s – Discovery learning• 1970’s – McMaster University medical school• 1985 – Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy• 1990’s – Medical schools across North America and Europe• 2000’s and beyond – Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, universities and professional schools
    12. 12. What is behind PBL?• Based on the constructivist theory of learning• Promotes active learning by challenging students to learn to learn• Inquiry-based• Well-constructed problems stimulate students’ curiosity and engagement
    13. 13. Where does PBL fit? Inquiry Learning Cooperative/ Collaborative LearningProject-Based Problem-Based Case Studies Learning Learning
    14. 14. What’s the Difference? Project-Based Both Problem-Based Learning • Teacher as guide Learning • Individual or group • Students at centre • Groups • Teacher defines the • Real-world • Students define the problem connections problem • Teacher identifies • Active learning • Students identify action steps • Self and peer action steps • Create a product assessment • Create a solution • MetacognitionBottom Line: In Problem-Based Learning, students have more control over their own learning and the processes involved.
    15. 15. Components of a PBL Unit• Stakeholder• Ill-structured Problem• Teacher as Coach• Constraints• Formative Assessment• Problem-Solving• Metacognition• Assessment
    16. 16. Student As Stakeholder• Increases ownership• Provides a form of apprenticeship in a discipline• Perspective-taking• A key decision maker• Must be someone with Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability
    17. 17. The Ill-structured Problem• Needs more information before it becomes clear• Can be solved in more than one way• Has more than one resolution• Changes sometimes with new information• Is ambiguous and unclear
    18. 18. Teacher As Coach• Metacognition• ‘Guide-on-the-side’
    19. 19. Constraints• A well-designed problem is constrained to the issues on which the teacher wants students to focus
    20. 20. Assessment• How will I know if students are learning what I want them to learn?• Many familiar assessment tools can be utilized to monitor students’ group work (skills), critical thinking (metacognition) and learning (facts)
    21. 21. Problem-Solving• Students will need to find potential solutions to the problem and determine which solution is the best fit
    22. 22. Metacognition• Students think about their thinking• What do I think the problem is? Why do I think that? Has my perspective changed? How?
    23. 23. G.R.A.S.P.S.G GoalR RoleA AudienceS SituationP Product or PerformanceS Standards/Criteria
    24. 24. Sample Problem
    25. 25. The Flow of the Problem
    26. 26. The Flow of the Problem • Meet the problemUnderstand • Know/Need to Knowthe Problem • Define the Problem Statement • Gather InformationExplore the • Share InformationCurriculum • Generate Possible Solutions • Determine Best Fit SolutionResolve the Problem • Present the Solution • Debrief the Problem
    27. 27. Understand the Problem1. Meet the problem – Students are introduced to the problem
    28. 28. Sample Problem• Who killed Simon & Piggy?
    29. 29. Metropolitan Police Dear Chie fG ordon, Kings Cross We, the pa rents of th School for e students _____________________________ demand th Boys, here by file this of Kings C ross at the polic complaint Piggy and e investiga and Simon. te the dea ths o fDate: April 30, 1955 It is a com plete trave not make it sty that the home afte se two boy horrific pla r miraculou s did ne crash o sly survivin all of the b n the islan g the oys went o d. After thTo: Investigative Team island. Th ey manage n to spend weeks on e crash, hunt for fo d to organ the o d an d b u ize themse each othe ild s lves to r. Yet, som helters and take care strongest b ehow, two ofFrom: Chief of Police oys died o n the islan of the olde st and d. It is inexpli cable that We deserv such a thin e answers g should hSubject: Deaths of Simon and children. T , for ourse appe n. he survivin lves and fo their experi gb r o ur ence and w oys are traumatized Piggy least we c an do is he ill never be the same. by lp them un of their frie nds did no derstand w The t make it h hy two ome. We await ySee attached letter. our promp this compla t reply reg int. arding the status ofOpen an investigation immediately. Sincerely, The paren ts of the K ings Cross School for Boys
    30. 30. Understand the Problem1. Know/Need to Know – Students determine what they know and what they need to know to solve the problem – Students start to identify action steps toward solving the problem – Note: in some cases students may need more information or background knowledge to define the problem
    31. 31. Learning Issues Board Hunches: Simon and Piggy died on the island They were stranded on the island They got sick or injured and couldn’t get help What We Know Need To Know Plan of Action• 2 boys died – Piggy & • What are they • Read the novel Simon traumatized about?• Plane crashed • Where was the pilot?• Boys spent weeks on • How did they die? island • Were there any• They found food and predators on the shelter island?• They were friends • Did the boys like (care for each other) each other?
    32. 32. The K icker!• On day 2, students receive a memo from the Crown Council asking for a recommendation regarding who should be charged for the boys’ deaths.
    33. 33. Understand the Problem1. Define the Problem Statement – Students write a statement defining the problem – Students add to learning issues board, identify learning objectives and make a plan
    34. 34. Problem DefinitionDetermine whether or not charges shouldbe laid in the deaths of Simon and Piggyand against whom, while being just andfair and responding to the parents’demand for answers.
    35. 35. Learning Objectives• Read and understand texts• Understand both literal and symbolic meanings• Use oral language• Select and use a range of reading strategies• Interpret, analyze and evaluate ideas• Write and represent ideas
    36. 36. Explore the Curriculum1. Gather information - Darwin - Golding Leadership styles
    37. 37. Explore the Curriculum1. Share Information – Presentations, Jigsaw
    38. 38. Explore the Curriculum1. Generate Possible Solutions
    39. 39. • Who could be held responsible for Simon and Piggy’s deaths? – Ralph: failed as leader – Jack: led boys into savagery – Beast/Fear: caused boys to go crazy
    40. 40. Resolve the Problem1. Determine Best Fit Solution – Evaluate the options and choose the ‘best’ one*Remember, there is no ‘right’ answer
    41. 41. Resolve the Problem1. Present the Solution – Students present their proposed solution to the class – Students defend their position using criteria which are meaningful to the discipline
    42. 42. Resolve the Problem1. Debrief the Problem – Students compare the different solutions proposed by each group – What are the pros/cons of each? – What would you have done differently? – Do you think your presentation was effective?
    43. 43. Examples of PBL Across The Curriculum• “Lord of the Flies” (English)• The Ebola Problem (Math/Socials/Science)• The Black Death (Social Studies/Math)• Mosquito Coast (Geography/Science/Math)• Genetic Disorder Problem (Science)
    44. 44. Designing a PBL Unit
    45. 45. Not a Topic, a Problem• Not the Civil War…The Draft Riot• Not Acids and Bases…Acid Spill on the Highway• Not art history…’Degenerate Art’ during World War II
    46. 46. Not a Topic, a Problem• Not the Civil War…The Draft Riot• Not Acids and Bases…Acid Spill on the Highway• Not art history…’Degenerate Art’ during World War II
    47. 47. Where to start• Look in the news, textbook, fiction, tv, life• Take your summative assessment activities and work backwards• Make cases out of word problems or essay questions – Example: In essay format, discuss what you think Golding says about civilization and civilized behaviour in “Lord of the Flies”• Adapt a project – Example: Genetic Disorder Problem
    48. 48. Designing a PBL Unit• Determine content – what you want students to learn• Identify the stakeholder• Create the problem• Layout the plan & identify the constraints• Plan assessment
    49. 49. Determine Content • First Nations Culture Social • Careers Studies • Geography• • Conservation What fish look like• • International Issues/ Trade Design a fish farm• First Nations Art• Stories and Legend• Protest songs Salmon Fine Arts Science • Ecology & ecosystems • Tools & technology • Pollution • Lifecycle
    50. 50. Identify the Stakeholder• Fishermen• Consumers• Fish farmers• Conservationists• Land developers• Mayor of small fishing village• Aquarium
    51. 51. Write Problem Introduction• You are a land developer who has just discovered that you will not be able to build on a parcel of land in which you have already invested a large sum of money. Plans have been drawn up and workers have been hired. You must find a way to develop the land or risk losing your money and reputation.• Follow-up with minutes from public hearing explaining the issue with developing this particular area of land: it is home to a salmon spawning stream that would be threatened by development
    52. 52. Map Out The Problem• Take a look at your lecture notes for the subject/issue and identify resources that students could use• Make a list of possible activities• Determine the skills you want students to learn and how you will teach them• Make sure the problem is constrained to just the issues you want students to explore
    53. 53. Plan Assessment• Facts• Skills• Analysis• ReflectionIdeas: Problem Log, Portfolios, Rubrics
    54. 54. Learning Strategies• Note-taking organizers• Reading strategies (e.g. ‘Shower of Stars’)• Teacher as expert• Jigsaw• Graphic Organizers (web, t-chart)• Adding Up Logically: Making Inferences• Presentation Outline• Reflection Journals
    55. 55. Differentiation• You can use the same tools that you would use in any other lesson• Many of the learning strategies are tools to differentiate• Examples: providing research materials, breaking the problem into steps/tasks, graphic organizers with fill-in-the-blanks, researching in pairs, vocabulary list
    56. 56. Samples & Resources
    57. 57. Genetic Disorder Problem1. Understand the Problem• As the head cytologist in a fertility ward, you have just performed a test on a pregnant woman who is having complications with her pregnancy. The couple had trouble conceiving and are worried about losing the baby. They want to know what is happening and what it means for future pregnancies.• The test results are back. You have a photograph of the chromosomes removed from a single embryonic stem cell taken from the 3 week old embryo.
    58. 58. 1. Explore the Curriculum• How will we find out what’s wrong with the unborn patient?
    59. 59. 1. Resolve the Problem• What will you tell the couple about the diagnosis, how it happened and what to do about future pregnancies?
    60. 60. Questions• ??