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# Problem-Based Lesson Analysis & Reflection

Fall 2013
PBL Lesson Resource:
http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyduhl/Unit1ProjectFarmersMarket?
bc=;Coll_kathyduhl.Algebra1;Coll_kathyduhl.Unit1RelationshipsbetweenQuantitiesa
ndReasoningwithEquations
Unit 1 Project: Farmers Market
Component #1: Is intended to teach significant content
The students will meet several course content standards including the following:
1) reason quantitatively and use units to solve problems, 2) Create equations
that describe number relationships, 3) Understand solving equations as a
process of reasoning and explain the reasoning, and 4) Solve equations and
inequalities in one variable. Students are writing, interpreting, and translating
linear equations and inequalities in order to solve problems. While students
create a business model for a stall at a farmers market, they are employing all
the standards. Students can even generalize this model to operating many
Component #2: Requires critical thinking, problem solving
collaboration, and various forms of communication
Although there is not one specific driving question, the plan clearly lays out
project objectives for the students. The students need to design their own stall
at a farmers market and then determine the cost and profit of their stall.
Answering these questions requires a great depth of understanding of the
problem, and it always involves good organization and logical thought. Students
are working in teams of four to five students, and they must collaborate with
every major decision about their stall, from what product to sell to how they will
determine the percent mark-up of the product. A large amount of research must
be done to know what materials are required, materials prices, rent prices, and
other factors that affect the running of a stall. The plan does not specify how
students will acquire the information needed, but I expect they will research
online, by calling companies that currently operate stalls, and possibly even
visiting a local farmers market. The student must be able to communicate all
this information within their group, listening to the input of others and voicing
their own research. After reviewing all the research, the group must synthesize
and express their decisions and reasoning in several formats: written,
mathematics expressions, graphs, etc.
Component #3: Requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and
creating something new
Since students are given the freedom to pick their own product, there are ample
opportunities to ask questions, search for answers, and arrive at their own
conclusions, although the questions are loosely provided to them. The students
are able to synthesize their knowledge and create something new that
expresses their learning. They can choose their favorite type of media such as
posters, PowerPoint, Glogster, or another type of their choice.
Component #4: Is organized around an open-ended Driving Question
Again, this project is not based around a specifically stated Driving Question,
but it certainly gives the students a good deal of freedom. The basic question is

## Problem-Based Lesson Analysis & Reflection

Fall 2013
What is the cost of operating a stall at a farmers market, and based on their
expected cost, how many customers do you need to break even? These are
incredibly open-ended questions, so the students can select products and prices
as they see fit. The guidelines are helpful for initiating the thought process of
running a stall, but as the students begin to work through the entirety of
operation, they will become aware of challenges and the various options for
operations. They will also certainly determine which components are the most
important.
Component #5: Create a need to know essential content and skills
This PBL is structured so that students have practiced the four basic
mathematical skills that are required for the project, so it isnt completely
reverses the order for presentation of information; however, the students have
practiced the mathematics concepts, but they havent practiced creating a
business, using break even models, etc. The project seems to balance the
traditional methods of learning mathematics concepts (in the four preparation
lessons), but then it does more than a traditional extension lesson. Overall,
the structure of the project creates a need to know the essential content and
skills, and it definitely begins with an end vision the students were just given
the opportunity to practice foundations before embarking on the project.
Component #6: Allows some degree of student voice and choice
The students have a high degree of voice and choice. They are allowed to
choose their product, the selling price of their product, the record-keeping of
expenses, the medium for their presentation, and several other important
components of their project.
Component #7: Includes processes for revision and reflection
I see several areas (specifically step #4) where students will probably need to
make revisions and improvements based on results and feedback as they
progress through their calculations. When presenting their final project, they are
asked to explain how they decided and calculated the mark-up price, and they
must explain their profit and loss for various periods of time. I would have liked
to see more explanation incorporated into the project requirements. Its always
helpful for the students to explain their reasoning.
Component #8: Involves a public audience
The lesson plan only specified that groups would present to the class, although
they were able to choose online media for their presentations. The lesson could
be improved by adding a component where they present at a small business
conference or even a farmers market.

## Reflection on Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning (PBL) can be an incredibly innovative and valuable
teaching and learning tool. PBL is learning that allows students to develop and
produce a product or project that addresses a problem identified the student. After
intensive research, analysis, and synthesis, students create their product and

## Problem-Based Lesson Analysis & Reflection

Fall 2013
present it to an audience in a meaningful way. The learning is student-centered and
student-driven.
There are many benefits to Project Based Learning, and there is a significant
amount of research that supports PBL and its effectiveness. Many countries have
used it with much success. Students who practice PBL gain deep understanding of
the concepts they practice while completing their projects. PBL encourages students
to develop critical thinking skills, and it emphasizes innovation and creativity
struggle because they feel assignments lack purpose or connection in relation to
their lives and the real world, but PBL can provide motivation for these students.
Many students express the desire to choose their own content or subject matter, or
at least explore a topic that interests them. PBL gives students the flexibility to
search for a problem that interests them, and it challenges them to find areas ripe
for improvement. Through PBL, they can make a significant impact on their schools
and communities. PBL also allows students to work in teams; while working
collaboratively to design a solution to a problem, students improve their skills in
cooperation and communication. PBL encourages skills, such as critical thinking and
collaboration, which are essential in the professional world; in fact, the students
develop skills that will be invaluable to them for the rest of their lives, instead of
simply memorizing facts that they forget immediately after the test. Furthermore,
PBL allows students to take ownership of a problem. Without problem based
learning, students are sometimes forced to choose between pursuing their own
interests on a global stage or doing work for a teacher to grade. When we view the
choice from the students perspective, it is easy to see why a student would choose
to ignore homework and pursue the option that gives them ownership over their
work. Students crave ownership of projects, and they love the global voice. The
challenge for teachers is to channel that drive and energy into school, and projectbased learning can certainly accomplish that goal, when implemented correctly.
Although PBL presents some outstanding benefits, it has several
disadvantages. First, it requires significant time for planning and preparation, and it
usually involves cross-discipline collaboration. While the collaboration itself is not
necessarily negative, many teachers do not feel they have the time required to plan
so intensively. Often teachers, especially teachers who are new to PBL, spend
countless hours developing all the necessary materials for the PBL, and they still
struggle to seamlessly include PBL projects in their schedule. PBL projects can be
lengthy, and it is difficult to cover all standards and prepare for standardized tests
within a PBL project. Although the applications are beneficial for students, the
standards and testing do not usually align well.
I am certainly open to PBL. I would love to incorporate several short PBLs
within the fall semester and then one larger one in the spring semester. With proper
planning and attention, PBL projects are incredibly engaging and can be almost
entirely student driven. I want to provide a comprehensive educational experience
for my students, and PBL seems to be an essential component of that experience.