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Problem- Based Learning in STEM Disciplines Saturday, November 10, 2007 JHU/MSU STEM Initiative

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Session Goals To provide an overview of PBL in the STEM disciples To provide a rationale for incorporating PBL in STEM disciplines To provide an overview of the benefits of PBL to student learning outcomes To raise awareness about issues related to implementing PBL in STEM disciplines

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Activity 1: KWL Jot down what they already know about problem based learning in STEM disciplines, what they want to learn about problem-based learning and at the end of the session, record what you have learned about PBL in then STEM disciplines as a result of the session

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Activity 2: Sorting Through Each group has been given a set of problems taken from various STEM disciplines Categorize these problems into groups based on the nature of the problems Categories and sorting strategies should be developed by the groups Present your rationale for categorizing problems to the whole group

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Categorization, Revisited Now, use the following categories to sort problems based on the following categories: Exercises Traditional Word Problems Discipline Specific Inquiry Problems Interdisciplinary STEM Inquiry Problems

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Discussion Questions What are the fundamental differences between problems in a specific content area (such as mathematics) and problems that reflect an integrated STEM PBL approach with respect to: Student learning outcomes? Subject matter content coverage? Instructional strategies required to implement the task?

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Guiding Principles of PBL Identification of the "big" or key science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) ideas around which the curriculum and subsequent learning tasks are being built. Classroom instruction focuses on inquiry and investigation of STEM ideas embedded in rich problem situations.

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Guiding Principles of PBL cont Ideas are explored through rich tasks that allow students to make sense of STEM ideas and make connections among these ideas. The curriculum helps students grow in their ability to reason effectively with information represented in graphic, numeric, symbolic, and verbal forms and to move flexibly among these representations.

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Rationale for a Problem- Centered Curriculum Students' perceptions about a discipline come from the tasks or problems with which they are asked to engage. Authentic multi-disciplinary problems allow students to think and problem solve as scientists or mathematicians Long term and meaningful learning occurs (Wheatley, 1990; Stephien & Shelagh, 1993)

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Lessons from Cognitive Science Students can make sense of mathematics and science if the concepts and skills are embedded within a rich context or problem (Savery & Duffy, 1996; Rebello,et. al 2007) Students must explore interesting and integrated situations that require them to use STEM concepts in an integrated way, reflecting on solution methods, examining why the methods work, comparing methods, and relating methods to those used in previous situations (Ogot & Okudan, 2007)

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Lessons from Cognitive Science Students are likely to build more robust understanding of STEM concepts and related procedures in problem-based learning environments. A problem-centered instructional approach helps students to make sense of the mathematics and science and helps them to process the mathematics and science content in a retrievable way (Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findel, 2001).

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Characteristics of Good Problems Contribute to students' conceptual development of important STEM ideas. Promote skillful use of mathematics and science and opportunities to practice important skills. Create opportunities for teachers to assess what students are learning Engage students and encourage classroom discourse.

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Characteristics of Good Problems Cont Allow various solution strategies require higher-level thinking and problem solving Connect to other important mathematical and scientific ideas Relevant to students experience

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Characteristics of PBL Activity Examine the discipline specific inquiry problems and the STEM interdisciplinary problems Use the Characteristics of PBL grid to decide which features of good problems are represented in each of the problems sorted earlier Discuss your grids with your group members

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Teaching using a PBL requires: A deep knowledge of mathematics and science A broad and coherent view of the subject matter An understanding of effective ways to conduct a class based on inquiry Effective classroom management Patience, Flexibility and Reflectivity !!

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Problem-based Learning in Student Learning Outcomes Students learn to systematically approach a problem or question Students are encouraged to take control of the learning process, their awareness and control over learning is heightened (student-centered fostering independent learners) Deep understanding of content knowledge, there are studies that indicated longer retention and better transfer of knowledge (Duffy and Cunningham, 1996; Sternberg, 1998) Learning through experience cognitive benefits of students participating in authentic learning activities Increased motivation due to authentic tasks that arouse natural curiosity and use an appropriate level of challenge

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Objections to Problem Based Learning Lack of Sequencing of Learning Outcomes Teacher and Student resistance Assessing Student Outcomes Classroom management, particularly for novice teachers Some scholars suggests that PBL is less effective and less efficient than direct instruction models (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark, 2006)

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What did you learn? Return to your KWL grid and record what you have learned as a result of this session Thank you for your time and engagement! Questions????

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