- Students show better recall of information.
- Students report higher levels of motivation and student satisfaction.
- The learning is interdisciplinary.
- Critical thinking and problem solving skills are developed.
- Students learn to work cooperatively.
- PBL addresses individual learning styles or multiple intelligences.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Problem-Based Learning - Creating Authentic Learning Experiences
One of the buzzwords around education these days is the term “authentic” – authentic learning, authentic tasks, and authentic assessment. According to social constructivists, the term “authentic” refers to learning that takes place in environments that are similar to real-life situations. Students must be actively engaged in creating meaning by linking new information to their own previous experiences. According to Younghee Woo, “if the learning tasks are authentic, then students can make direct connections between the new material and their prior experience. They can also apply the new learning to their current practice and future activities.”
Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat
Educators are encouraged to adopt student-centred learning practices where authentic learning opportunities are embedded into course design. This classroom shift puts learners in the driver’s seat and the role of teacher changes to one of support and facilitation. In this model of learning, teachers guide students to construct their own meaning.
One strategy suggested for creating authenticity in the classroom is through the use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL). In contrast to traditional instruction, PBL begins with a realistic, relevant problem. According to Deana Halonen, students are presented “real-life, open-ended problems with many correct answers possible.”
Students can work collaboratively by taking on different roles to solve the problems. For example, when studying Weather in Grade 5 Science, students could assume the role of meteorologist and be presented real-world situations that are relevant to the geographical area in which they live. In NASA’s Let’s Go to Mars! Adventure, students must decide which items to take along during their journey to Mars. Through problem solving and trial and error, students choose the items that they feel will be most beneficial. There is no one right answer and students must use critical thinking skills to determine which items are best.
The PBL model can also be used for independent study, but Halonen stresses that the active, cooperative nature of PBL allows for the development of life-long learning skills such as group communication, research and problem-solving.
Advantages of PBL
Halonen outlines numerous advantages for introducing PBL into the classroom, such as:
For younger students and/or for teachers new to this method of instruction, a more formal, step by step structure may need to be developed to help guide learners the first time through this process. Regardless of the level of teacher involvement, PBL always begins with students’ prior knowledge. Then, students help to develop the learning plan.
PBL and Distance Learning
Effective communication and collaboration are critical skills for PBL to work most effectively. For online or distance courses, this can be trickier and requires more organization. Using a Course Management System (CMS) like Moodle or Blackboard , or a online social learning service like Edmodo, teachers can activate online dialogues through discussion forums. Teachers may choose to post conversation starters, or may assign groups of students to moderate discussion depending on the students’ age and comfort level with the technology.
Google Docs is another useful tool for the PBL classroom. This web-based tool allows students to work collaboratively to research answers from any location. In the Sun West School Division, students in Brenna Siroski’s Grade 11 Biology class use Google Docs to share research information. By colour coding their contributions, group participants can easily identify information from each member. This helps Siroski when it comes to assessment.
For more resources on ways to bring PBL into your classroom, be sure to check out
- Tech and Learning Blog featuring 20 web links to get you started with PBL