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Problem Based Learning:

A Sequential Approach

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional method using

real-world contexts for in-depth investigations of a subject matter.

PBL activities start with an ill-structured problem that

serves as a springboard to team engagement.


A PBL Investigation Includes the following actions on the students part:

Students read a situation statement

the situation statement:

•is ideally ill-structured

•creates a scenario

•generates relevance

Students must then identify "What do we Know?"

and then perform an Earth Systems Analysis

Step 4: Form a Team:

Students Compare Notes

List “unknowns” at this stage, that is: “What do we need to know”

These questions will drive the students research - encourage students to generate a list and to be willing to update their list as needed.

Teaching hint: At this stage you need to establish a rubric so that the students understand how they will be evaluated.

I like to emphasize the following components:

•Generating an effective question list, "game plan" to begin their research and Problem Statement. I do not allow students to move on in the PBL process until these components are "in place."

•Preparing a written report that identifies the problem, includes data (can take the form of charts, graphs, tables, etc.) which is then analyzed by the students thoroughly enough so that meaningful conclusions can be drawn.

•Preparing an oral/visual presentation that can/should utilize charts/graphs/quicktime movies, etc... that present their findings. Students are encouraged to use powerpoint, or to create a website in this effort.

•Be prepared for an Oral Defense where all students must exhibit their knowledge as a component of earninng their grade.

•Thorough reporting of ALL sources, including correctly citing websites. (See my home page for a link to citiing web resources.

“What should we do?”

This stage of the investigation allows student teams to plan out their investigation, encourage them to:
•Identify potential resources (internet, experts, library,etc…)
•Establish individual responsibilities

All of the above leads students to develop a...


Information Gathering Stage

Student behaviors:

  • Conduct Research
  • Search for data
  • Analyze Data
  • Teachers facilitate
Provide web links

Review student work as it progresses