Show opening sequence at http://alienrescue.netIf you were a 6th grade student, this would have been your introduction to problem based learning experience situated in a virutal space laboratory. You’d be working on the project for next two weeks
The study is focused on teacher actionas. Today I am going to share with you our findings answering the second research question
PBL is a student centered teaching method which situates learner in a authentic environment. In Alien Rescue, students work as scientists to solve a scientific problem about the solar system and use scientific tools and procedures to solve it. All of these actions take place in the virtual space lab.Specifically, the students must find homes for 5 alien species in our solar system. To successfully find homes, the students must understand the unique requirements for life. They next must become familiar with the physical and chemical characteristics of planets and moons in our solar system. As you can see there is a significant amount of data that the students must evaluate and synthesize to provide a successful solution.The caveat of Alien Rescue is that there isn’t just one answer – there can be multiple answers which are correct in varying degrees. Mimicking real science, there are many incorrect answers. In presenting their solution, the student must justify and support their decision.
Demo the environment: These tools aim at (a) sharing cognitive load, (b) supporting cognitive processes, (c) supporting cognitive activities that would otherwise be out of reach, and (d) supporting hypothesis generation and testing (Lajoie, 1993). It is up to the students to decide how to use these tools
Teachers were from TX, AZ and PA represent a spectrum of teaching experiences, starting with 3 years to 20 years of middle school science teaching (certain amount of self-selection since these teachers opted to integrate the program into their curriculum; in several of the schools the Alien Rescue project is part of the campus culture that acculturates the 6th graders to collaboration, learning with technology, and problem solving)Students included regular education, gifted, ESL/SLL, and students with section 504 accommodations.Public schools, and one charter school, with a range of demographic Research collection:Triangulating our data: a qualitative method was used with multiple data sources: (1) interviews with teachers, (2) classroom observations, and (3) researchers’ reflexive the observational chart was structured to focus on three aspects of the classroom activity: 1) student groupings (e.g. students working individually, in small groups, as a whole class or as a combination); 2) teacher behavior (e.g. lecturing, leading discussion, asking and answering questions), and 3) students’ behavior (e.g. listening, note-taking, off task). To capture snapshots of classroom activities in a systematic manner, researchers alternated their observation techniques every 5-minutes for the entire class period. The observational chart provided frequency data of classroom activities. For the next 5-minutes, the researcher wrote observational notes about what was happening in the class. These notes provided rich contextual descriptions of classroom activitiesAnalysisA multiple-level scheme was used. At an initial level, as a group, the researchers read one-third of the interview transcripts to get a sense of the data and generated a list of codes reflecting the data. Keeping the research questions in the forefront, the codes were reviewed and refined to make them more specific and consistent. Using this list of codes agreed upon by the researchers, the rest of the interviews were individually coded by each researcher and checked by a second researcher. During the coding process, the researchers constantly compared data, codes, categories, and themes; till data was saturated.
PBL and its affordancesSavery (2006) defines it as “an instructional (and curricular) learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem” Several characteristics of PBL position it as an attractive approach: In PBL, students assume a major responsibility for their own learning and teachers are facilitators; learning occurs in small groups and collaboration is emphasized (Barrows, 1996). PBL emphasizes solving complex problems in rich contexts and aims at developing higher order thinking skills (Savery & Duffy, 1995). In PBL, the problem is often ill-structured so that students must define the problem, plan a process to generate several possible solutions, evaluate these solutions, and finally, select the optimal solution (Barrows, 2002). The focus of learning is not only the knowledge outcome, but also the process by which students become self-reliant and independent; and learn to be collaborators and problem-solvers (Barrows, 1996; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Savery & Duffy, 1995). In PBL, knowledge building develops in a collaborative context, and collaboration, both in person or computer mediated, can be practiced and enhanced through PBL instruction Challenges of Implementing Technology-Based PBLNot only are there challenges of PBL but also challenges of technology integration which combine to create even more complex challenges of technology-based PBL. Hew and Brush (2007) presented barriers typically found in using technology. They identified lack of time, lack of access to technology and technical support, the institutional environment, classroom management issues, and an assessment-focused culture that allows limited time for innovative teaching practice. The literature identifies challenges of PBL instruction to include lack of teacher training, insufficient hardware and limited access to Internet connectivity, lack of access to PBL software, and lack of technical support (Kramer, Walker, & Brill, 2007). Pedagogical Beliefs and Facilitation in PBLIn a study using the path analysis statistical approach, Inan and Lowther (2010) found a positive correlation between technology integration and teachers’ beliefs. When teachers believed in technology integration and student centered instruction, they were more likely to integrate technology (Park & Ertmer, 2008). More specifically, research has shown that teachers who hold a constructivist teaching philosophy make more effective use of technology (Becker, 2000; Becker & Riel, 2000; Park & Ertmer, 2008). Park and Ertmer (2008) found that expert PBL teachers practiced “(1) collaboration with other teachers, (2) engaged students in self-evaluation and reflection on the problem-solving process; and (3) provided students with self-monitoring guidelines” Successful PBL requires facilitation and scaffolding on the part of the teacher (e.g. Brush & Saye, 2000; Marx, Blumenfeld, Krajcik, Blunk, & Crawford, 1994). Teachers can rely on hard scaffolds that are often embedded within the PBL programs themselves or are paper hand-outs which students can reference. Soft scaffolds are typically provided by teachers. According to Saye and Brush, (2002), soft scaffolds are dynamic and just-in-time guidance teachers provide as they “continuously diagnose the understandings of learners” (p. 82) and hard scaffolds refer to “static supports that can be anticipated and planned in advance based on typical student difficulties with a task” (p. 81). Teachers need to be engaged in students’ learning to gauge their progress and provide support for continued success (Ge & Land, 2004). Facilitation often takes on multiple forms and uses both soft and hard scaffolds. The goal of scaffolding is to encourage students to be self-reliant and develop higher order thinking skills to resolve learning challenges on their own.
What are the factors teachers consider important in affecting their motivation to adopt and use a technology-based PBL program? TEKS: science:
Our findings for the 2nd research question about implementation techniques can be organized into three broad categories:The classroom environment: how does the physical structure of the classroom affect the PBLThe teachers role: what is the teacher doing and then what are the students doingWhat we found was a fair amount of variation. Remember that all the teachers are using the same program and have access to the same teacher resources To help us understand the differences in implementation, I’d like to highlight 4 classroom, 4 different teachers.
Teacher control: group composition, Getting help: Ms. Trish: students raised hands and waited for help; Mrs. Laruen: students approached desk often with laptopAnswering questions: Mrs. Tirsh: answered student questions with guidance, questions and sometimes facts, providing soft-scaffolds; Mrs. Lauren, typically answered student questions with questions prompting student to recall prior learned content. At times, she referred students to his/her group or reference materials the student should know about.Activity level of teacher: Mrs. Trish was constantly moving around; typically 3-4 hands were raised waiting for teacher attention, Mrs. Lauren: causally moved around the classroom observing students’ work and at times worked at her own desk;Mrs. Trish created her own hard scaffolds to the lessons as well as small formative quizzes for evaluation.Student collaborationMrs. Trish: students worked independently at their workstation and at times sharing their findings only within their group. Mrs. Lauren, students were constantly sharing information, looking at other’s screens, worksheets. Students helped each toerh and often explained scientific concepts to each otherOff-task behavior: Mrs. Trish: very little. Off task behavior involved sitting quietly at work station and staring into space. Mrs. Lauren: groups moved from off-task to on-task without teacher intervention; teacher accepted off-task behavior and waited for students to self-correct and begin working on project. Off-task behavior was mainly socializing with others.Classroom: Mrs. Trish: computer lab, which was orderly and once class started, very quiet (as in students were working). Mrs. Lauren stayed in her own classroom and students were able to move around with their laptops. Lots of talking and sharing of ideas (often we heard a student exclaim: wow, have you seen this…)
both emphasized that they liked using the program because of its focus on student-centered learning and developing problem-solving skills. Collaboration was an important technique both teachers encouraged through their use of the programClassroom: Mrs. Yolanda: round tables seating groups of 4-6 ; each student had a laptop. Mrs. Ann’s students sat at lab tables and each pair shared one laptop. Mrs. Ann allowed her students to select her own partner believing that the personal choice would off-set problems.In both of the classrooms, there was a constant noise level indicative of talking, which was usually on-task. Teacher control: Mrs. Yolanda began each class had the same schedule of whole class activities. She began with a whole class discussion and outlined the objectives for the day. The students worked with their groups. She continuously moved around the classroom working with students. Towards the end of class, the whole class would debrief. When a new concept was discovered, she would often stop the entire class and have the student share out his/her findings. In her classroom, there was very little off-task behavior.Mrs. Ann mostly monitored students from her desk. Students approached her as questions developed; most often, she referred students to the information and instructions contained in their folder or in the computer cognitive tools. While her approach appeared to be relatively hands-off, she facilitated student-centered learning by encouraging students to reference the information they already possessed. There was significant off-task behavior and she redirected students throughout the class period.Student collaboration: Mrs. Yolanda: each team member had to find one home, the group found homes for all aliens – the groups often shared information within just their group. Each pair in Mrs. Ann’s class worked together to find one alien home; and since there was no larger group, sharing of information between groups was not encouraged. Mrs. Yolanda: group folder grade which was earned for the group. Mrs. Ann met with each pair at her desk to monitor their progress mainly through timelines and milestone charts which she developed. These were both group grades.
All teachers in this study received the same software program and the same comprehensive teacher’s manual outlining suggested lesson plans, classroom activities, additional science topics, and other problem-solving activities. Although the same materials were provided, the ultimate responsibility is on teachers to adjust and adapt the tools to their students’ specific needs and campus resources. This requires teachers to devote more time and effort (when compared to more traditional instruction), to be flexible, and to be willing to adapt and deal with challenges. Our investigation showed that teachers’ customization of the PBL program helped them implement it successfully in their particular situations to accommodate different student needs, different technology resources, different schedules, and different teaching styles. We observed variation in implementation on a number of dimensions. Some teachers had students form small groups and others had them form pairs. Some classrooms had sufficient computers for each student and some required students to share. The timeframe for using the program ranged from the intended three weeks to two weeks. Some teachers followed suggested lesson plans and used all of the provided materials (e.g. assignments, assessments, and additional science content), while others used selected materials and still others created their own additional materials. Based on their perception of students’ needs, teachers relied on individualized soft scaffolding and provided more hard scaffolds (i.e. paper instruction and question prompts) in addition to those embedded in the program. The types of students these teachers taught varied from year to year and teachers used different scaffolding techniques to adjust and adapt the program to meet their students’ needs. Our findings revealed the importance and necessity of “allowing for local adaptation” Despite working from the same computer program and having the same teacher’s manual, we found a fair amount of variation in the implementation of this PBL. Teachers adjusted and adapted this one PBL to their teaching stylesBetween these four teachers, one was in a classic computer classroom, and the other three had laptop carts. Two of the teachers had limited computer access and students had to share computers.Mrs. Ann preferred that her students share computers because she felt that this supported her English language learners.Mrs. Yolanda maintained a highly scheduled class period, the others relied on students to work in their small groups or pairs.Groups were developed in many different ways. Two of the groups were made of 4-5 students, and there were two working in pairs.
This presentation highlights the findings for just one of our research questions. Implementation practices vary based on local contexts and teacher styles
Implementation practices of 4 teachers
Comparison ofFourImplementationTechniquesUsing the SameEducationalGameRenata Geurtz, University of Texas, USAMin Liu, University of Texas, USAJennifer Wivagg, University of Texas, USADorothy Lee, Austin Community College, USAMaria Chang, Korea EducationalDevelopment Institute, Korea (South)Correspondence sent to:Min LiuThe University of Texas at AustinDept. of Curriculum & Instruction1 University Station D5700Austin, TX 78712MLiu@mail.utexas.edu
Purposes of the studyThe goal was to understand teacher motivation, documenttheir implementation techniques, and identify factors thatteachers considered important in using technology-based PBLtools in their teaching.We asked the following research questions:1. What are the factors teachers consider important in affecting their motivation to adopt and use a technology-based PBL program?2. How do they implement a PBL program and what techniques do they use?
The goal of the program is to engage students in solving a complex problem that requires them to gain specific knowledge about our solar system and the tools and procedures scientists use to study it. Students become The Problem- scientists and their mission is to find new home planets for these aliens based learning which can support their Technology-enhanced life forms and prevent authentic learning experience them from dying.
A multi-media environment Simulates a space laboratory in earth orbit 14 cognitive tools to support problem solving Web-accessed Requires log-in Alien Rescue Developed at University of Available for free for Texas, College of Education, research Learning Technologies Division participation Extensive teacher’s guide with resources
Participants 10 teachers 6th grade science Variety of school demographics Data Sources Observation notes and chart Researchers reflexive journals Semi-structured interviews Research Method Analysis Mixed method Constant comparative method to develop themes Quantitative descriptions
Theoretical Framework PBL and its affordances Student centered Collaboration is beneficial Ill-structured problem Not one correct solution Challenges of implementing technology-based PBL Technology integration barriers Classroom management issues An assessment-focused school culture Lack of teacher training Limited selection of technology-enhanced PBL software Pedagogical beliefs and facilitation in PBL Social constructivist teaching philosophy Teachers, themselves, participated in problem-based learning Providing a combination of hard and soft scaffolds
Results, RQ1 Factors Affecting Teachers’ Motivations to Adopt and Use Technology-Based PBL Addressing teachers’ curricular needs and having campus administrative and technical support Teachers’ pedagogical beliefs Offering a new way of teaching and promoting higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) Challenging students in a captivating manner and supporting the learning needs of all students.
Classroom environment Teacher’s role Students’ roles Findings Teachers’ Implementation Techniques in Using PBL
One District, One School Mrs. Trish Mrs. Lauren Classroom was Classroom was orderly active High level of Low level of teacher control teacher control Student collaboration Students limited to collaborated with neighbors and many different group members students in classroomTraditional computer lab Laptop cart in classroom
One District, Two schools Mrs. Yolanda Mrs. Ann Students sat at round Students sat in pairs tables and used 1 at a lab table and laptop per child shared a laptop High level of teacher High level of teacher control control Student Student collaboration within collaboration limited group was graded to partners 98% passed science 84% passed science assessment assessment
Discussion: allow for localadaptation Teachers adjust and adapt Different technology resources Student needs Teaching styles Implementation processes Group composition Computer to student ratio Follow recommended lessons plans Develop hard scaffolds Different assessment strategies
Conclusion4 factors affecting teacher’s motivation to adopt and implement PBL Implementation practices varied based on local school contexts Full research paper has been accepted: Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning Other research on Alien Rescue: http://alienrescue.edb.utexas.edu Copies of research can be obtained from Dr. Min Liu (MLiu@mail.utexas.edu)