Want to learn more about Problem Based Learning but don’t have time to read several posts with graphics? Want to see what a student-centered math unit looks like from start to finish, but would prefer to see it visually and hear it in a nasally voice? Well, look no further, my friends! I recorded a little video in which I discuss five-ish steps to a problem, start-to-finish. It’s about 10 minutes and you can hear me doing terrible impressions of students all while I had a cold. Also, it was made with a crappy movie making program (I won’t reveal what program it was, but let’s just say it comes free with Windows 7 and it rhymes with “Shmoovie Shmaker”). So apologies for that. Hopefully what it lacks in design it makes up for in usefulness.

Here are five stages to Problem implementation discussed in the video, start-to-finish.

  1. Posing of the Problem
  2. Work on the Problem
  3. Intervention as questions arise
  4. Students apply scaffolded instruction
  5. A solution is reached

Although, as I look at it now, it probably shouldn’t appear so linear and step-by-step. It should probably be something like this:

1. The Problem is Posed

2-???. Work ↔ Intervention ↔ Apply scaffolding

???+1. A solution is reached.

Anyway, for more on Problem (or Inquiry) Based Learning and more in-depth discussions, here is some linkage.

Also, I zipped up all the files used for the above presentation, including slides, audio, and the transcript. So if you want to, like, re-record it in your own less annoying/nasally voice, have at it. Or I supposed you could isolate the audio and listen to it as a podcast for some ungodly reason. Anyway, here are the files (note: the slides are in PNG images format and not in proper order; anything else?).


Standard disclaimer: I would also like to formally declare that I don’t have all the answers. Frankly, I’m not sure I have very many answers at all. I do have a lot of questions though.

4 thoughts on “Problem Based Learning, start-to-finish, in Ten Minutes

  1. Seriously, I love you for making this screencast! For one thing, now I don’t have to do it (thank you for that); and for another, it helps me know I’m not alone in the struggle for my “here’s a novel idea, let’s teach THINKING!” mission in life. No, really, thanks for making a great screencast, saying such true things in such a fun way (ha ha, “just above interpretive dance”), and giving me another wonderful link to show to people when I’m trying to describe what makes my approach to professional development for teachers so much different from (and superior to) everyone else’s. It’s always great when you can show others who have used the approach you’re advocating. (Note: any teachers or administrators reading this, contact me for your PD needs!)

  2. Lots of thoughts on this…

    I like “PWISA”. I think that is a clear way to articulate the general structure of a PrBL to someone who is unfamiliar with it. I also agree with your comment about it not being such a linear process. You will definitely have to jump around between steps 1-4 many times.

    I love your “Potential Next Steps” slide. I think it would be something teachers should have as a poster to remind students of their options for getting started when they feel too overwhelmed to begin.

    Regarding the three causes for students not actively struggling (task is too easy, too much front loaded instruction or preteaching, and problem is not engaging enough) it sounds like that list is centered around teacher issues. I would add, as we’ve discussed, issues more closely related to the students themselves: communication, curiosity, critical thinking, and content knowledge. Each of those could potentially hinder students from actively struggling… and I am sure there are many others too.

    I really like your idea of a problem-based learning rubric. Do you have one you’ve developed you can share? I think that would be a great way to help students reflect on whether they are staying on track and I haven’t ever tried anything like that before.

    I also love your Debrief slide. All good questions. I haven’t seen the 2 minute assessment grid and look forward to trying that out as well. How has it gone when you’ve used it with students? Do they do it superficially or are there meaningful responses too?

    Thanks again for sharing all of this great content.

  3. Here’s a kind of generic problem rubric –> http://www.scribd.com/doc/119885675/Sample-Problem-Rubric

    Here’s a rubric I used for a problem involving the BP Oil Spill way back when –> http://www.scribd.com/doc/119884966/Oil-Spill-Writing-Task-Rubric

    I should note that New Tech classrooms usually assess products on several different skills, content knowledge being one, things like Oral/Written Communication, Critical Thinking, Technology Literacy, etc. being others. So that’s why there are a couple different rows to assess from.

    As for the 2-minute assessment grid – eh, 50/50 on superficial vs. meaningful.

    Thanks for the kind words, Robert!

    — Geoff

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