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  • Good morning! My name is Meilan Zhang. I am a postdoctoral researcher in a professional development project at Michigan State University. This PD used the PBL approach to developing science teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. In this study, we focused on facilitation, how facilitators promoted problem-based discussion? My colleague, Mary Lundeberg is there. She is also one of the Co-PIs of the project and a co-author of this paper. She might add some information about the project in the discussion session;
  • First, let me give you a little bit context about this PD project, it is a five-year NSF funded professional development program, which uses the PBL approach to develop K-12 science teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. Why using PBL for teacher professional development? First, teaching problem is very messy, ill-structured, similar to the problems used in medical school PBLmodel. Also, we view teachers as professional clinicians who need identify, analyze problems of practice and reflect on solutions for the problems. Finally, PBL emphasizes small group learning, and research has documented that collaborative learning community benefits teacher learning. ; teachers need to learn to identify and analyze problems, and reflect on possible solutions for the problem ================================================================== Teachers as reflective practitioners who analyze and reflect on the problems in their teaching practice PBL holds great promise for teacher learning Group discussion of teaching practice promotes reflection Little is known about how to facilitate such as productive group discussion
  • This PD model has two parts: a 2-week summer PD and a year-long action research project. In the summer, the first week focused on improving teachers’ content knowledge; teachers used PBL approach to solve content problems; In the second week, teachers used the PBL approach to analyzing teaching problems. They also identified a problem from their own practice that they want to work on in the school year. During the school year, teachers conducted research on the problems they selected in summer; they videotaped their lesson, and they met in small groups once a month to discuss their research; they also used the PBL approach to discuss the process. In this study, we focused on this part. We looked at how facilitators guided teachers to analyze problems of practice using the PBL approach. ======================================================== assessment, instructional decision making, student interaction
  • So, why focusing on facilitation? Because facilitation plays an essential role in PBL. A problem does not teach itself; also, a new group does not automatically form a learning community; As Savery, 2006 argued, if teaching with PBL could be done without a facilitator, then many teachers would be taking early retirement.
  • Research has documented the complexity of facilitation. First, group discussion is hard to predict; so, on one hand, facilitators need to have planned agenda, but on the other hand, they also need to be flexible to adapt to the group autonomy. Second, facilitators often face conflicting goals, for example, if facilitators wants to emphasize community building, they may provide less guidance; if they want to emphasize learning and make sure students do not walk away with misconception, they may provide more guidance. Third, many PBL instructors face challenges when they make transitions from regular instructor to PBL facilitators. Some teachers are used to the teaching as telling model, so they lecture a lot in the PBL discussion. While other instructors may have a rigid view of student-centered learning, so they are afraid of intervening in discussion, and stay passive or even totally uninvolved.
  • So far, few empirical studies have focused on facilitation process and strategies, except the studies by Hmelo-Silver & Barrows. Their studies looked at two PBL meetings with 5 medical students. They identified 10 strategies used by an experienced facilitator, such as asking open-ended and metacognitive questions, pusing for explanation, revoicing, and summarizing. =========================================== Although practical wisdom is valuable in helping instructors develop their facilitation skills, very few empirical studies have examined the strategies used by facilitators in PBL, with the exception of Hmelo-Silver and Barrows (2006, 2008). Hmelo-Silver and Barrows (2006) identified ten strategies that an experienced facilitator used in two 2.5-hour long problem-based learning meetings with five medical students. These strategies included: “1) use of open-ended and metacognitive questioning, 2) pushing for explanation, 3) revoicing, 4) summarizing, 5) generate/evaluate hypothesis, 6) map between symptoms and hypotheses, 7) check consensus that whiteboard reflects discussion, 8) cleaning up the board, 9) creating learning issues, and 10) encourage construction of visual representation” (p. 27-28). These strategies were used to achieve both educational goals including helping students to develop clinical causal explanation, reason effectively, and recognize knowledge deficiencies, and performance goals of keeping all students involved in learning, keeping discussion on track, making explicit student thinking, and developing self-directed learning skills. In a more detailed analysis of the same PBL group process, Hmelo-Silver and Barrows (2008) examined episodes in which the facilitator supported collaborative knowledge construction by asking open-ended questions. The studies by Hmelo-Silver and Barrows (2006, 2008) made important contributions to understanding facilitation through illustrating the complex strategies used by an expert facilitator to promote clinical reasoning skills in medical students. However, this study examined only one single facilitator and two PBL meetings. In addition, the context was in the medical school and some strategies are content specific, such as mapping between symptoms and hypotheses. How and whether these strategies apply to a professional development context to promote teachers’ learning remains unclear. In sum, although existing studies provide valuable insight on the role of facilitation, many issues remain unknown regarding facilitation. In addition, the research on PBL facilitation has almost exclusively been conducted in medical schools. This is not surprising given the history of PBL in medical education. Research on PBL facilitation in other contexts is very rare. To date, we know little about the use of PBL in a professional development context. Therefore, evidence on how PBL can be implemented in a PD program for science teachers is greatly needed to help teacher educators make informed decisions in adapting PBL to their specific contexts, otherwise, as Hmelo-Silver (2004) asserted, “it would be naïve to believe that the medical school model of PBL could be imported into other settings without considering how to adapt it to the local context, goals, and developmental level of learners” (p. 260). Given the complex process of PBL facilitation, many researchers have identified the need for investigation on what actually happens in the PBL process (Dolmans et al., 2002; Svinicki, 2007). Hak and Maguire (2000) caution that: “research [on PBL] to date has largely neglected the issue of the actual activities and learning processes that mediate and moderate the relationship between these programs and their cognitive outcomes” (769). The group and tutorial process remains to be a “black box.” In this study, we attempt to shed some light on the “black box” by providing a window into the complexity of facilitation through researching four questions: 1) What strategies did experienced facilitators employ in a PBL discussion in the context of PD for science teachers? 2) What goals did the facilitators attempt to achieve by using these strategies? and 3) How did teachers evaluate the facilitation and the discussion?
  • Although their studies made important contribution to understanding facilitation, they focused on only one facilitator, and it was in medical school context. Clearly, more studies in other context are needed, as Hmelo-Silver herself argued, it would be naïve to believe the medical school PBL model could work in other context without any adaption. Hak & Maguire in 2000 critiqued that in PBL studies, the group and tutorial process remains to be a black box, so in this study, we intended to shed some light on the black box by studying facilitation.
  • Specifically, we ask four research questions:
  • Materials included three teaching problems and relevant video clips from the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) video series. Elementary teachers analyzed the Falling Object and Circuits problem and secondary teachers studied the Weather Map problem. In the Falling Object problem, the teacher taught first graders science process skills in a unit of gravity. Students conducted experiments of dropping a book and a piece of paper in small groups. The teacher’s problem was how to help students notice and resolve discrepant data. In the Circuits problem, 4th grade students constructed an electric circuit to provide a pathway. The teacher was struggling to help her students move from vague ideas to a more scientific understanding of circuits and pathways. In the Weather Map problem, eighth grade students studied a unit of Meteorology. However, the teacher observed that the students were interacting only occasionally by talking quietly or sharing maps. She wondered how she could structure the task differently to stimulate more collaboration among students.
  • This table shows that two facilitators worked in a pair to facilitate two groups of teachers for two days.
  • We won’t go to details, but I just want to give you a sense about the ideas generated from the discussion. This example is from Circuits 1 discussion. These were the facts they identified when they analyzed the circuits problem, these were the learning issues they developed, these were the hypothesis they developed. Teachers prioritized the learning issues and conducted research using books or online resources;
  • And these were the research findings for the learning issues; and finally, they made recommendations for solving the Circuits problem.
  • Using the survey data, we triangulated with teachers’ perspectives on effective facilitation strategies.
  • Create a graph to show the average percentage; connect to literature; why it is important; different from 66%;
  • This is the coding scheme we used. I will explain about the strategies and goals I would like to use the coding scheme to explain a little about the strategies. For the goal of promoting active PBL discourse, facilitators asked many questions. Some of the questions were generic, open-ended questions to get the discussion started, such as, any facts or learning issues that you have? Some questions were clarifying questions, such as, what do you mean by that? Could you explain more? Some were challenging questions, such as, how your idea is different from another person’s idea?
  • To our knowledge, very few studies have reported how much facilitators talk in a PBL session. The frequency of facilitators’ talk provides a reference point for other facilitators who guide a new PBL group. ================================================= Furthermore, in line with the learner-centered principle, we found that on average the main facilitators talked about 32% of speaking turns and 28% of total words, which is significantly lower than the 66% of time of teacher talk in typical classroom discourse (Cazden, 1986). The frequency of facilitators’ talk provides a reference point for other facilitators who guide a new PBL group. Saunders (1992) reported in case-based discussion, in which she talked 33% of the time when she facilitated an undergraduate class.
  • To our knowledge, very few studies have reported how much facilitators talk in a PBL session. The frequency of facilitators’ talk provides a reference point for other facilitators who guide a new PBL group. ================================================= Furthermore, in line with the learner-centered principle, we found that on average the main facilitators talked about 32% of speaking turns and 28% of total words, which is significantly lower than the 66% of time of teacher talk in typical classroom discourse (Cazden, 1986). The frequency of facilitators’ talk provides a reference point for other facilitators who guide a new PBL group. Saunders (1992) reported in case-based discussion, in which she talked 33% of the time when she facilitated an undergraduate class.

Transcript

  • 1. Strategic Facilitation of Problem-Based Discussion for Science Teachers’ Professional Development Meilan Zhang, Mary Lundeberg, Tom J. McConnell, Matthew J. Koehler, Jan Eberhardt 4/16/2009 PBL TPC Project Copyright © 2009 Michigan State University Board of Trustees Teacher Professional Continuum Project no. ESI - 0353406
  • 2. Context of this study
    • A 5-year NSF funded professional development project, which uses PBL approach to developing K-12 science teachers.
    • Why using PBL as a teacher professional development model?
      • Teaching problem is messy, ill-structured
      • We view teachers as professional clinicians
      • Problem solving skills are important for teachers
      • Collaborative learning community benefits teacher learning
  • 3. The PD model
    • Summer
      • Week 1: Immersion in content
      • Week 2: Focus on practice
        • Analyze teaching problems using PBL
        • Identify a problem from practice for teacher research
    • School year
      • Conduct research on the problems they selected in summer
      • Meet in small groups monthly to share and discuss their research
  • 4. Vital role of facilitation in PBL
    • A problem, however well designed, does not teach itself.
    • A new group does not automatically form a learning community.
    • “ If teaching with PBL were as simple as presenting the learners with a ‘problem’ and students could be relied upon to work consistently at a high level of cognitive self-monitoring and self-regulation, then many teachers would be taking early retirement.” (Savery, 2006 p. 15)
  • 5. Challenges in facilitation
    • Unpredictability of group discussion (e.g., Morine-Dershimer, 1996; Saunders et. al., 1992 )
    • Conflicting goals of facilitation (e.g., Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Levin, 1999 )
    • Making transition from regular instructors to PBL facilitators (e.g., Hak & Maguire, 2000; Schmidt et al., 1993 )
    Teaching as telling Passive and totally uninvolved Community building Fostering learning Planned agenda Group autonomy
  • 6. Research in facilitation strategies
    • Lack of empirical studies on PBL facilitation
    • Studies by Hmelo-Silver & Barrows (2006; 2008)
      • Examined two 2.5-hour long PBL meetings with 5 medical students
      • Identified 10 strategies used by an experienced facilitator
        • 1) use of open-ended and metacognitive questioning,
        • 2) pushing for explanation,
        • 3) revoicing,
        • 4) summarizing,
        • 5) generate/evaluate hypothesis,
        • 6) map between symptoms and hypotheses,
        • 7) check consensus that whiteboard reflects discussion,
        • 8) cleaning up the board,
        • 9) creating learning issues,
        • 10) encourage construction of visual representation (p.27-28)
  • 7. Shedding light on “the Black Box”
    • Critique of existing studies
      • Limited sample size
      • Restriction in Medical school context
        • “ It would be naïve to believe that the medical school model of PBL could be imported into other settings without considering how to adapt it to the local context, goals, and developmental level of learners” (Hmelo-Silver, 2004 p. 260).
    • Need for new research in facilitation
      • The group and tutorial process remains to be a “ black box .” (Hak & Maguire, 2000 p.769)
  • 8. Research Questions
    • How did facilitators and teachers use speaking turns in the PBL discussion?
    • What strategies did experienced facilitators employ in a PBL discussion in the context of PD for science teachers?
    • What goals did the facilitators attempt to achieve by using these strategies?
    • How did teachers evaluate the facilitation and the discussion?
  • 9. Methods
    • Participants:
      • 6 facilitators worked in pairs: one main facilitator, one assistant facilitator
        • All three lead facilitators had 20+ or 30+ years of teaching experience as either science educators or science teacher educators
        • Had extensive experience in leading small group discussion in their classrooms
        • Received training on how to lead PBL discussion
        • Used design meetings to share experience in facilitation
      • 35 teachers in four small groups
    • Problems
      • Three problems:
        • Circuits: how to move from vague ideas to scientific understanding of circuits?
        • Falling object: how to help students notice and resolve discrepant data?
        • Weather map: how to structure the group task to stimulate more collaboration among students?
  • 10. Table 1: Facilitators, problems and teachers Secondary group 2 (8 teachers) Secondary group 1 (8 teachers) Weather Map Karen Presley Elementary Group 1 (10 teacher) Elementary Group 2 (9 teacher) Circuits Hannah Stephanie Elementary Group 2 (9 teacher) Elementary Group 1 (10 teachers) Falling Objects Ashley Jocelyn Day 2 Day 1 Problem Assistant facilitator Main facilitator
  • 11. PBL process…
    • Group members encounter a new problem (called dilemma)
    • Analyze and discuss views of the problem
    • Identify key facts as it relates to the problem
    • Propose hypotheses
    • Formulate learning issues
    • investigate learning issues
    • Discuss new knowledge
    • Summarize learning
  • 12.  
  • 13.  
  • 14. Data sources
    • Video recordings of six PBL group discussions, resulting in about 15 hours of videos
    • Charts generated during the group discussion
    • Evaluation questionnaire at the end of Focus on Practice week
  • 15. Data analysis
    • Analysis of speaking turns for both facilitators and teachers
    • Development of coding scheme for analyzing facilitation strategies and goals
      • Inter-rater reliability for coding: 91% agreement for 17% of data
    • Member checks with three lead facilitators about our interpretation of their goals
    • Triangulation with the project design document about the PD goals
    • Triangulation with teachers’ perspectives on effective facilitation strategies
  • 16. Results: Analysis of speaking turns Figure 1: Distribution of speaking turns among facilitators and teachers
  • 17. Results: Analysis of facilitation goals Figure 3: Frequencies of facilitating goals
  • 18. Results: Analysis of strategy use Figure 2: Frequencies of major facilitating strategies
  • 19.  
  • 20. Evaluation results
  • 21.  
  • 22. Discussion
    • Speaking turns:
      • This study: 32% of speaking turns and 28% of total words
      • Saunders (1992) reported in case-based discussion, she talked 33% of the time as a facilitator.
      • 66% of time of teacher talk in typical classroom discourse (Cazden, 1986).
  • 23. Discussion
    • Facilitation goals and strategies:
      • Some strategies are similar to the findings of Hmelo-Silver & Barrows (2006; 2008), such as questioning, revoicing and summarizing
      • Identified new strategies, such as making connections, alleviate frustration, role play
      • Modeling group process practice might be unique to the PD context
      • Few PBL studies have reported frequency data on facilitation strategies
  • 24. Limitation and future research
    • Limitation of this study
      • Short period
      • Did not examine the effects of individual strategies
      • Difficulty with measuring discussion-based learning
    • Future research direction
      • How facilitation is interacted with other important PBL variables, such as the problem, the group and the learning context?
      • How facilitators develop skills in a relatively longer period?
      • What is the effect of individual strategies?