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Suzanne Cook
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Problem-Based Learning
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Problem-based learning is a teaching model that uses problems as the main focus for students to develop problem-solving skills, content, and selfregulation. This model focuses on students being responsible for solving the problem and teachers encouraging their students to complete the problem.
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Planning occurs in four steps: 1.) Identify Topic: Teachers need to first identify the topic. The topics will be complex and abstract. Some of the topics will not have specific characteristics. 2.) Specify Learning Objectives: There are two types of objectives in a problem-based model: Problem-solving ability and self-directed learning. Teachers need to create goals for their students to be able to have problem-solving abilities and to become self-directed learners. Students need experience to help with their development. 3.) Identify Problems: Students need to be provided with a problem to solve. Problems should be clear, concrete, and personalized. Teachers need to make sure the students have prior knowledge before they begin to create strategies to solve a problem. 4.) Access Materials: Student should know what they are trying to solve and they should have the materials provided to help solve the problem. Sometimes sharing materials with other classmates can cause a student to lose momentum and lose focus. Groups should have about three students and should be mixed. Small groups will require more materials. Teachers should monitor the groups to make sure they are staying on task.

Problem-based learning occurs on two levels: 1.) Students should solve a problem and be able to understand the content of the problem. 2.) Students should develop problem-solving abilities and become self-directed learners. Implementing occurs in four phases: 1.) Review and present problem: Teachers should review prior knowledge to help students solve a problem and then the teachers should present a concrete problem. Eventually, students will be able to identify problems on their own. Most problems students will have in their math book will be well-defined not ill-defined. Students need experience to become better problem solvers. Groups will be formed during this phases. 2.) Devise a strategy- Students will create a strategy to solve the problem. Teachers should also provide some guidance for their students to prevent them from spending too much time on a wrong strategy. After the students have created a strategy, teachers can tell the students to begin solving the problem using the strategy they created, or a teacher can reconvene the class and get the groups to present their strategies. The teacher and the students can provide feedback to the groups strategies. 3.) Implement the strategy- The students begin to implement their strategy. Teachers should provide scaffolding to make sure students are not making any mistakes in solving the problem. Asking questions is the most effective for scaffolding. 4.) Discuss and Evaluate Results- Teachers may not be able to provide enough scaffolding for all of the groups. This phase is very important. Misconceptions in problem solving should be eliminated. Teachers should guide a discussion of how well the groups performed and the groups results.

Assessment should be determined by the learning objectives of the lesson. Assessments for problem-based learning: 1.) Alternative assessments- It is a direct examination of a students performance of how well they perform on certain tasks that relate to life outside of school. This assessment is important for measuring learning objectives that may difficult to measure with other tests. 2.) Performance assessment- Students demonstrate their knowledge by doing an activity or creating a product. Students are placed in a reality situation to see how well they perform. Students use their knowledge in a handson situation rather than on a test made by a teacher or a standardized test. 3.) Systematic observation- Teachers specify criteria for the processes and the teachers take notes based on the criteria. A rubric is used in this assessment: (1. States problem or question; 2. states hypothesis; 3. identify independent, dependent, and controlled variables; 4. Describes the way data will be gathered; 5. Orders and displays data; 6. Evaluates hypothesis based on the data) 4.) Checklists- They are written descriptions that must be present in an acceptable performance. Notes can be added to the checklists. This assessment allows students to make their students thinking more systematic. Require a yes or no response. 5.) Rating Scales- They are written descriptions of a students performance combined with scales that rate each students dimension. 6.) Group versus individual assessment- Group assessment does not allow teachers to see individual performance. High-ability students increase the performance of the group and low-ability students decrease the performance of the group.

The problem-based learning model can encourage students to have curiosity, to be challenged, to have authentic tasks, and to be involved. Curiosity and challenges are two important characteristics for students to be motivated to learn. This model focuses on increasing intrinsic motivation. Authentic tasks help students to be motivated to see how abstract concepts can relate to the world. Autonomy increases in a student when they have the opportunity to decide how and what they should do to solve the problem. Classrooms are usually onedimensional. Teachers can increase student involvement and autonomy by using a problem-based model.

So what? What is important to understand about this?

Problem-based learning is a teaching model that is used to help students gain problem-solving skills and to be able to connect what they learned to realworld problems. It is students responsibility to come up with their own strategies to solve the problem and teachers should guide the students through the problem-solving process.