Date: May 24, 2007

Problem-Oriented Learning and 
Building the Scientific Mind

Working & Special Interest Group


Second Advanced International Colloquium on
Building the Scientific Mind (BtSM2007)

Vancouver, Canada, May 28-31, 2007

 

The common thread that connects the members of the problem-oriented learning group is shared interest, experience, and insight into inquiry, problems, and/or problem solving as mechanisms for learning or as outcomes of learning. For the purpose of BtSM 2007, we will be applying this shared interest to a specific theme, i.e. developing and nurturing the scientific mind. A short description at http://www.learndev.org/PBL.html gives some insight into some aspects of what we might consider under the PoL umbrella.
Correspondence regarding this Web page should be addressed to yvisser@learndev.org.

Contributing members
Name & Affiliation Biographical summary
Cindy Hmelo-Silver
Rutgers University 
Cindy Hmelo-Silver is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Rutgers University. She received an M.S. in Educational Technology from SUNY at Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Studies from Vanderbilt University and served postdoctoral fellowships at Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center. Her research interests include problem-based learning, collaborative knowledge construction, particularly in the area of complex systems, computer-supported collaborative learning, and software-based scaffolding. Her recent projects have created conceptual frameworks and learning environments that are grounded in the learning sciences and have involved both adult learners and children in a variety of contexts ranging from medical education and teacher education to middle school science and math. She is associate editor of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and serves on the editorial boards of Journal of the Learning Sciences, international journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning. She has written numerous articles and has co-edited books entitled Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions (2000) with Dorothy Evensen and Collaborative Learning, Reasoning, and Technology (2006) with Angela O’Donnell and Gijsbert Erkens. She received awards for Best Paper by a New Investigator from the AERA Division I for her dissertation research, an NSF Early CAREER award for her work on complex systems, and a National Academy of Education Postdoctoral fellowship for studying collaborative knowledge building in problem-based learning and how that is facilitated. She is currently co-chair for the international Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 2007 conference.
Elizabeth Jordan
University of British Columbia
Elizabeth Jordan is a member of the faculty in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. She has been at UBC for 17 years. Her particular interests are in Problem-Based Learning, Gifted Education and the classroom environment that supports creativity. She has co-authored two textbooks for pre-service teachers using PBL: Educational psychology: A problem-based approach (2006) and Problem-based learning in inclusive education (2000)
Michael Hannafin
University of Georgia-Athens
Michael Hannafin is Charles H. Wheatley-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Technology-Enhanced Learning; Professor of Instructional Technology; and Director, Learning and Performance Support Laboratory. Michael directs the LPSL, an R&D organization, comprising several academic faculty, research scientists, and technical support staff. The LPSL was established via a public-private economic development partnership known as the Georgia Research Alliance, which established a series of university-based endowments in strategic areas of opportunity and need. He established the lab’s infrastructure and recruited leading researchers, scientists and students by creating collaboration focal points. The lab studies the potential for and impact of emerging technologies for teaching and learning. Currently, LPSL collaborators are actively engaged in a total of 12 federally- and state-funded R&D projects. He has served as PI or co-PI on R&D funded by the National Science Foundation, US Department of Education, the Department of Defense and private foundations. Prior to moving to UGA, he held academic positions at the University of Colorado, Penn State University and Florida State University, and directed centers at both Penn State and Florida State. His research focuses on developing and testing frameworks for the design of student-centered learning environments. He earned his doctorate in Educational Technology from Arizona State University in 1981.
Paul Horwitz
Concord Consortium
Paul Horwitz is a Senior Scientist and directs the Modeling Center at the Concord Consortium in Concord, Massachusetts. He is a physicist with broad interests in the application of technology to science and mathematics education. In 1984, he was Principal Investigator on the ThinkerTools Project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which designed a curriculum and associated software that successfully taught the elements of Newtonian physics to students at the sixth grade level. In 1992, a simulated "Relativity Laboratory" that he designed won two EDUCOM Higher Education Software Awards, one for Best Natural Science Software (Physics), the other for Best Design. He recently served as Principal Investigator for the Modeling Across the Curriculum Project, sponsored by the IERI Program at NSF. This project examined the use of "hypermodels" - computer-based applications that scaffold students' investigations of a manipulable model - to teach high school students about models in physical science, biology, and chemistry. The hypermodels posed problems to students, then monitored and logged their actions as they attempted to solve the problems. This fine-grained performance data was used to demonstrate student learning and shown to correlate to scores on traditional question-and-answer tests.
Chris Kolar
Illinois Math and Science Academy
Christopher Kolar is Coordinator of Research and Evaluation at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy outside of Chicago. A public, residential, laboratory high school for students talented in science and mathematics, the coming of NCLB has provided challenges as to what "evidence" looks like in an integrated, inquiry-based environment. Chris' research interests include advanced knowledge acquisition, socio-cognitive aspects of learning, gender in math and science education, and how place-based methods might allow math and science to better penetrate rural communities. Chris serves on the board for the National Consortium of Specialized Secondary Schools in Mathematics Science and Technology (NCSSSMST), the board of the Society for Applied Psychological Research in the Performing Arts, and participated in the first BtSM colloquium.
Dan Laitsch
Simon Fraser University
Dan Laitsch Dan Laitsch is an assistant professor with the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches in the Educational Leadership programs and co-edits the International Journal for Education Policy and Leadership (www.ijepl.org). He recently ended a three-year term as Chair of the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group on Research Use, and continues to serve as the current Program Chair. Dr. Laitsch’s research interests include the use (and misuse) of research in policymaking, issue advocacy, and the influence of teaching and learning.
David E. Kanter
Temple University
David Kanter David Kanter is Assistant Professor, Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology in Education (Science Education) at the College of Education, Temple University, in Philadelphia, PA.
David arrived at Northwestern University in 1999 by way of a National Science Foundation-funded postdoctoral fellowship for Ph.D. scientists to work in science, math, engineering, and technology education. For his fellowship, in collaboration with the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools and the Engineering Research Center for Bioengineering Educational Technologies, Kanter designed and researched the impact in the Chicago Public Schools of the middle school project-based human biology curriculum, I, Bio. Kanter went on to co-author with Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry the Science Education Partnership "Supporting Student and Teacher Inquiry in Bioscience," during which he designed and researched the impact of the project-based high school inquiry biology curriculum Disease Detectives and related educational software Village Park Mystery. Kanter is currently the Principal Investigator of the BioQ Collaborative, a National Institutes of Health-funded Minority K-12 Initiative for Teachers and Students, focusing on professional development for middle and high school biology teachers to help them use these curricula to their full potential (http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/BioQ). In this context, he teaches courses on Learning and Teaching Human Biology. He has recently taken the BioQ Collaborative to the School District of Philadelphia, joining the faculty at Temple University. Kanter studies the design of project-based science curricula to promote students' meaningful understanding of content and the design of teacher training to promote teachers' pedagogical content knowledge in support of their expert use of such curricula.
Marion Porath
University of British Columbia
Marion Porath is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto in 1988. Marion's research and teaching are informed by constructivist practices, including different modes of representing and re-representing knowledge, co-construction of understanding, and communities of learners. She has co-authored two books on problem-based learning in teacher education with Elizabeth Jordan, one focused on special education and the other on educational psychology. Marion's research interests are different forms of giftedness, young children's social development, instructional applications of developmental theory, and problem-based learning. Her recent projects include students' views of themselves as learners and their understandings of teaching, learning, and the social context of school; a pan-Canadian project on gender, achievement, and career choice; and a survey of problem-oriented practices used at UBC.
 
Jason Ravitz
Buck Institute for Education
Jason Ravitz is Research Director at the Buck Institute for Education where he is responsible for advancing knowledge about the process of teaching and learning through project and problem based learning. He has conducted research on educational technologies, large scale surveys of teachers' beliefs and practices, and online designs for assessment and evaluation. Prior to arriving at BIE, Jason taught and worked as a management consultant before joining the pioneering National School Network project at BBN Educational Technologies in Cambridge, MA and serving as evaluator for the Online Internet Institute. He was lead instructional designer for a military logistics software project (TC-AIMS II) at GTE Internetworking. Jason completed two postdoctoral positions, first at University of California, Irvine working on a national survey of teachers, and then with the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT) at both SRI International and University of California, Berkeley developing technology supported assessments and an online course on this topic.
Jason has served as an expert panelist, consultant, and project evaluator for programs in the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and private foundations. He is author of several major reports on teaching practices in the U.S. and a contributing author to the acclaimed second edition of the BIE Project Based Learning Handbook. Jason has taught graduate courses at Syracuse University, UC Irvine, and UC San Francisco, and has lectured at UC Berkeley and Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation from Syracuse University, a B.A. from Harvard University in Sociology and Psychology.

 
J. Michael Spector
Learning Systems Institute (The Florida State University)
 
J. Michael Spector is Associate Director of the Learning Systems Institute and Professor of Instructional Systems at Florida State University.
Previously, he was Professor and Chair of Instructional Design, Development & Evaluation at Syracuse University, Professor of Information Science and Director of the Educational Information Science & Technology Research Program at the University of Bergen, and the Senior Scientist for Instructional Systems Research at the United States Air Force Armstrong Research Laboratory from 1991-1996. His research is in the areas of learning in complex domains, intelligent performance support for instructional design, and system dynamics based learning environments. He was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship (1995/1996) to work at the University of Bergen creating and testing an interactive simulation of project dynamics.
Dr. Spector served on the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction (ibstpi) as Executive Vice President, is a member of the IEEE Learning Technology Technical Committee, is a past-President of the Design and Development Division of the Association for Educational and Communications Technology (AECT), and is Editor of ETR&D-Development and lead editor for the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (3rd ed.).
 
Yusra Laila Visser
Florida Atlantic University/LDI
(organizer and chair)
Yusra Laila Visser is a faculty member working in the Digital Education Teacher's Academy (DETA), a collaborative program between Florida Atlantic University and the School Board of Broward County. In this capacity, she is engaged in the design, development and implementation of targeted in-service teacher training programs focused on instructional design and technology integration. Much of the focus of the DETA program is on helping in-service teachers develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind integral to implementing effective problem- and project-based learning approaches. Previously, Yusra was an assistant professor in instructional technology (with an emphasis on K-12 technology integration) at Wayne State University, and an assistant professor in Instructional Technology at Florida Atlantic University. She also served as visiting faculty/project manager at Florida State University's Office for Distance and Distributed Learning, and as program associate for international programs at Education Development Center, Inc. In her consulting work she has served such clients as Verizon Corp, the Department of Homeland Security, Arthur Andersen, the United Nations, and Pearson PCS. Yusra holds a Ph.D. and Master's of Science in Instructional Systems from Florida State University. Her Bachelor's degree in International Relations is from American University.
Back to top of page

Questions formulated by participating members

All nine PoL group members were asked to generate a couple of questions that could serve as a source of inspiration not only for their own contribution to the dialogue but that could equally inspire their colleagues. They were also asked to provide a brief rationale for their questions. Below is the tabulated result of this initial exercise, presenting the questions in the order in which they came in.

       
 # Author Question
Underlying thoughts
01 Michael Hannafin To what extent are presumed discipline-specific knowledge conventions and standards unique? Differences are apparent among disciplines in how knowledge and truth are viewed, validated and accepted. Similarly, disciplines espouse different ways of knowing.  In many cases, these differences exist within specific fields of study. History as a discipline documents events, but historical accounts and interpretations can vary widely from historian to historian and culture to culture. Within the hard sciences, some associate the accumulated knowledge synonymously with the discipline, while others view formal scientific knowledge as transitional state of understanding that is continually modified as discoveries challenge current assumptions or is transformed when new discoveries cannot be reconciled within existing research or theoretical frameworks.  Thus, many emphasize how something is understood (ways of knowing) and characterize the discipline more in terms of inquiry than formal scientific knowledge, per se.
02 Michael Hannafin How do disciplines determine whether (and which) knowledge and practices are valued, thus establish unique and peculiar discipline-specific standards and conventions? The knowledge base and practices of different disciplines emerge and evolve in very different ways ranging from progressive refinements resulting from highly disciplined inquiry to evolved craft and lore.  Where the emergence of a knowledge base depends on disciplined inquiry, rigorous scientific study is the gold standard; evidence either generated through such study (or framed accordingly) tends to be valued and influences practice. Likewise, while soft social sciences researchers also generate knowledge via disciplined inquiry, practices may be influenced more by intuition, craft and perception. So, links between formal knowledge and practice can have a very profound influence on both what constitutes a discipline and the forces that shape its evolution.
03 Michael Hannafin How do we facilitate the efforts of individuals and communities outside a given discipline to know and understand those standards and conventions that are unique?  How we recognize and understand (or fail to do so) different disciplines has a profound influence on our ability to learn from and support them. To those already immersed in the study of a given discipline, the values, conventions and standards may be largely tacitembedded within and integral to how it is learned and understood; the unique and peculiar aspects of that discipline may not be apparent.  To outsiders, those same aspects may contradict beliefs and practices derived from study in a different discipline (or different conventions and values within the same area of study).  It is important, therefore, to recognize how ones individual mental traditions influence (perhaps confound) how understand and interpret the knowledge and practices of other disciplines and fields. Whereas traditional efforts have emphasized formal knowledge, perhaps it is more important to understand how formal knowledge emerges and becomes reified in the practices of different disciplines.
04  David E. Kanter Can we design instruction for use in schools that supports teaching content in such a way that the learner is optimally prepared to use this content later to solve novel problems?
 
It is not trivial to design project-based curricula that support students building a meaningful understanding of the underlying content while completing the task around which the curriculum is based.  Many curricula fail in their design to support simultaneously both the project doing and the content learning.  Care is required for the curriculum designer to notice the curriculum design challenges that emerge from this tension between doing and learning; care is required on the part of the curriculum designer to apply various design approaches to resolve this tension.  However, even well-designed curricula can be misunderstood by the teacher and as such used differently than intended.  While care is required to design curricula that do a better job of communicating to the teacher the strategic function of each lesson, this must be met by a useable body of content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge on the part of the teacher.  Curriculum-driven practice-based models of professional development may help teachers bolster their knowledge in such a way that they are more facile teaching with project-based curricula to get students to a meaningful understanding of the underlying content.
05 David E. Kanter Do such curricula require that students learn the content for problem solving in the context of actually solving problems?
06  David E. Kanter If so, how do we best design such curricula to work in today's real classrooms?  Secondly, what does a teacher need to know to effectively teach such curricula.  Lastly, how do we best develop this body of knowledge in teachers?
07 Yusra Laila Visser What aspects of the scientific mind cannot be developed through problem-oriented teaching and learning approaches? Formal education settings have often been challenged in providing the conditions that might yield complex and sustained change in the form of the development of dispositions. Indeed, the formal education system tends to be focused on providing the conditions for teaching and assessment of objectively-measurable performance in discrete disciplinary areas. Since many problem-oriented learning strategies, such as problem- and project-based learning are designed for implementation in the formal education context, it appears relevant to identify not only how such instructional strategies can be effective in supporting the development of the scientific mind, but also where they might fail. 
08 Yusra Laila Visser How could the conceptualization, design and implementation of problem-oriented learning (PoL) be reconceived in order to support the development of those attributes of the scientific mind that are currently not developed through PoL? This question assumes that there is indeed a case to be made for the hypothesis that problem-oriented learning in its current incarnation(s) is not wholly effective or adequate for building the scientific mind. The question is also posited from the vantage point that the mere identification of limitations to a given educational approach should not result in the abandonement of the approach. If, then, there are aspects of the scientifc mind that cannot be reliably nurtured or developed in the context of the current incarnation of problem-oriented learning approaches, how can PoL approaches be reconceived to increase their impact on the development of the scientific disposition?
09 Yusra Laila Visser How can our current conceptualization of problem-oriented learning approaches be used to develop problem-centered instructional approaches that can be sustainably and effectively implemented in the developing country context? Problem-oriented instructional strategies have had quite some traction in formal education systems in the developed world. Developing countries, however, are plagued with challenges that make the implementation of "our" problem-oriented learning approaches highly unlikely at this time: inability to meet even basic education needs, lack of formal training of teachers, high mortality rates among teachers as a consequence of HIV/AIDS, lack of funding for education, etc. Yet it seems that the infusion of problem-oriented learning into formal and informal education in developing countries might go a long way to better preparing the children and young adults for the world of challenges that faces them. With this question, I seek to explore whether it is possible to develop problem-oriented learning approaches tailor-made for effective implementation in the unique contexts of the many developing regions of the world. 
10 Paul Horwitz Is problem solving a generic skill? Is problem solving in science different from problem solving in math, for example? How about problem solving in law, history, human relations? Would Polya have made a great diplomat? In the context of "complex and long-term change" we're interested in people's ability to "think outside the box" and react to situations and circumstances that they had not anticipated. So the question is: can one really isolate that ability from the context (which, by definition, is not known in advance)? We know that mental abilities are rarely "fungible." For example, teaching kids chess does not improve their ability to do math or science, nor are exceptional chess players particularly skilled problem solvers in other fields. Does this mean that we should not focus on problem solving skills, per se, and teach problem solving only in very specific contexts?
11 Paul Horwitz Can problem solving be taught? How much of the observed variance in problem solving ability is attributable to instruction and how much to "innate ability"? How contextualized should problem solving instruction be? How metacognitive? It's the fundamental credo of most educators that "every child can learn" and most of us would like to think that this applies to problem solving skills. Do we have evidence for that belief? Assuming that the process can be taught, how important it is to teach it in the context of one or another discipline? And how important is it that the problems to be solved be perceived as "relevant" by the student? Aren't games and puzzles evidence that "irrelevant" problems can be engaging? If practice makes perfect, doing puzzles may make one an expert puzzle solver, but is that really what we're interested in? Is it a good thing or a bad thing for a child to think about her thought processes as she works through a problem? Or is problem solving one of these intuitive things that defies categorization and is killed by too much inspection? (A lot of very good baseball players are reluctant to talk to scientists anxious to learn how they do all that, for fear that if they start to think about it they won't be able to.)
12 Paul Horwitz Can problem solving be assessed? Is it enough just to give people problems and ask them to solve them? How does one differentiate rule-based, algorithmic problem solving from creative, innovative problem solving? How does one assess the process, rather then just the product, of problem solving? If you want to know whether someone can play the piano, you don't ask a bunch of theoretical questions -- you sit him down in front of a piano and ask him to play something. So we test for problem solving ability in physics, for example, by giving people problems and seeing whether they can solve them. But the problems we give are often quite algorithmic (isolate all the subsystems, identify all the external forces acting on each subsystem, write an expression for the resultant force, identify all constraints, solve the resulting equations for the desired unknown quantity...") and don't necessarily reflect the student's ability to be creative and flexible in unfamiliar and unanticipated situations. Is there any way to assess that?
13 Elizabeth Jordan (please see my conceptual statement here) What elements within an environment/ atmosphere encourage, support and permit problem solving/creativity to occur? While there are lists of factors that enhance creativity, such as risk taking, the environment of a classroom contains subtle factors that influence the tone of the class. During supervision of pre-service teachers you can pick up that evasive air imparted by the teachers and administration within a school and almost predict what kind of class environment you will observe. How can that affect POL and building the scientific mind?
14 Elizabeth Jordan How does the formal school system build boundaries on the flexibility necessary for enhancement of creativity? In many instances teachers are encouraged to develop case and project based courses but revert back to the more traditional lecture when exam time comes. This sends mixed messages to students who are subtly being "told" that in the end the only thing of value is the "right answer". Again, how can that affect POL and building the scientific mind?
15 Elizabeth Jordan Can the elements required for creativity to be nourished be duplicated within the constraints of today's education system? If not, then where does that leave PBL/POL for building the scientific mind? In many instances teachers are encouraged to develop case and project based courses but revert back to the more traditional lecture when exam time comes. This sends mixed messages to students who are subtly being "told" that in the end the only thing of value is the "right answer". Again, how can that affect POL and building the scientific mind?
16 Elizabeth Jordan To what extent is the potential effectiveness of POL approaches in supporting the development of a scientific disposition based on the attributes of a particularly effective teacher? Is it possible to develop this supportive teaching style or is it an inherent characteristic of some teachers?
17 Jason Ravitz What are characteristic elements of well-designed project-based learning that promote scientific thinking and inquiry processes across the curriculum? Effectively designed projects, in any discipline, are really about promoting student inquiry. These require students to engage in elements of scientific work such as: Asking progressively better questions; continually reflecting on what they know and need to know; considering alternative explanations; assessing the quality of information and data; analyzing and representing data, presenting and responding to arguments, critically evaluating claims and evidence in order to draw conclusions, developing ways of finding out or knowing, building on each other's work, etc. In short, the inquiry process is common to both conducting science and conducting project work. We should be able to promote scientific thinking across the curriculum by recognizing and building on these commonalities. It would be useful to come up with exemplary projects from different subject areas that demonstrate these processes of inquiry.
18 Jason Ravitz What are skills or attitudes that are important for scientific thinking that are lacking in traditional science classrooms, and how can PBL help promote development of these attitudes or skills? In addition to supporting the processes of inquiry in the previous question, PBL is a way to promote attitudes and skills that are required by scientists and scientific thinkers. For example, PBL can be designed to foster "21st century skills" including interpersonal skills that are often missing in traditional science instruction. Additionally, conducting projects can require students to develop skills in planning project work; managing the process of inquiry; communicating results; confronting ethical dilemmas and values issues; engaging in a peer review, thinking critically, persevering, and so on. These are skills and attitudes that are required in the fields of science and beyond. Arguably, effective design and use of PBL can help foster attitudes and skills that are needed for scientific thinking and a more scientifically literate citizenry.
19 Jason Ravitz How can PBL be designed to more closely resemble the ongoing and broad distributed investigations that we would associate with the scientific disposition, i.e., going beyond the requirements of a single individual or course? Can we design a PBL-based curriculum that builds on prior work, is authentic and cumulative? Too often projects take place as isolated incidents among individual students, groups, or classrooms, and years. An alternative approach would require students to conduct inquiry that builds upon work conducted previously and contributes new knowledge with each successive effort. In effect, we might try to frame projects and problems so that students learn to become contributors to scientific knowledge and are able to experience the benefits of participating in collaborative inquiry within a community of practice.
20 Jason Ravitz How is technology changing the way we understand, conduct, and define science and scientific thinking and how is this reflected in the practice of PBL? Which problems in the practice of science are being solved by technology? What problems will technology solve in the future? What new problems for scientific thinking have been created by new technologies? Emerging technologies have the potential to solve (or make easier) certain problems in the process of scientific inquiry. Technology may be effective in solving certain problems in the practice of science, at the same time that it raises new problems. Some good ideas or required skills from previous generations of science may have lost their utility or become obsolete as a result of technology. For example, some have argued that Google or YouTube-style rating systems may change the way communities find and create knowledge, automating the process so that it supplant the need for people to evaluate and disseminate quality work, making it easier to create self-organizing systems and so on. If we can design experiences in PBL for students that reflect this new approach to knowledge we might help advance their ability to contribute to knowledge in the future.
 21 Dan Laitsch  How are problem-based learning and the "deficit model" (the "problem" represents a "deficit" to be addressed through a "treatment" or disposition of knowledge) in the sciences related? What, if any, are the implications of this for using PBL to foster the scientific disposition? Problem based learning, as a teaching method, is one technique (among many) that can be used to stimulate student learning. What are the implications of extending this concept to an end state judgment (e.g. "conceptualizing one's environment as made up of problems")? Do we then create the equivalent of a "deficit/disease model" in education that focuses on treatments and interventions, rather than on creation of a positive (healthy) environment for life-long learning that may carry us beyond the problems we define in life?
 22 Dan Laitsch  Can/should PBL be envisioned to fit within the broader context of a "settings approach" (or behavioral or holistic model) that focuses on achieving a healthy knowledge end-state or fulfilling individual "knowledge potentials?"
23 Dan Laitsch  Does the highly contextualized and specific nature of effective problem-based learning (PBL) potentially diminish the effectiveness of PBL in nurturing a true, broad scientific appreciation of the world around us? 
 24 Cindy Hmelo-Silver What features of problem-based learning (PBL) are important for different kinds of learning outcomes?   Different kinds of learning outcomes are important for preparing people to be lifelong learners in a complex and changing world. Goals of PBL include construction of flexible knowledge and lifelong learning skills (and dispositions), there are other possible outcomes such as learning to collaborate and enhancing intrinsic motivation. All these outcomes are, we hope, long term. Although proponents of PBL consider PBL as a system, we need to better understand what is essential for which kinds of learning outcomes and what the tradeoffs are of various adaptations.
 25 Cindy Hmelo-Silver How can we scaffold learners of different ages to be able to engage in problem-based learning (PBL)? If we want learners to deal with the uncertainty of scientific knowledge, then it is important that PBL be accessible to young learners. The models that have been currently developed have been developed for advanced learners and it would be naïve to expect that the models used for medical students could be used for primary school children. Given the realities of relatively large class size, the model of one facilitator to a small number of learners is not tenable. Alternative approaches need to be considered that will support students of all ages in engaging in PBL and preparing them to be lifelong learning in a complex society.
 26 Cindy Hmelo-Silver  How can we help teachers learn to facilitate PBL? What kinds of professional development are important?  A key issue in using problem-based learning is being able to support students in engaging in realistic problems that build on the student's thinking. Facilitating PBL is challenging, both in terms of understanding relevant content and being open to learning with the students. Beyond the difficulties in learning how to facilitate, these issues become especially urgent in considering how to facilitate larger classes. There may be roles for technology in addressing some of these questions. 
 27
Marion Porath
Can POL contribute to the elaboration and flexible use of core conceptual understandings in science? 
Cognitive developmental psychology tells us that the more sophisticated stages of scientific reasoning are characterized by a coherence of core, or central, conceptual scientific understanding that appears necessary but not sufficient for creativity. However, not all learners achieve this coherence. POL may allow opportunities to work with core understandings in a way that builds first coherence and then the capacity to use concepts flexibly. 
 28
Marion Porath 
Is there an optimal balance between POL and transmission of recognized knowledge traditions in science? 
Bruner talked about models of mind that "drive" pedagogy. Uniting the knowledge of learners who bring their own scientific conceptions to school with the knowledge traditions of the discipline is one model that can pose particular challenges for teachers (as compared to the knowledge transmission or "show and do" models, for example). Surpassing one's field entails first knowing it intimately. Balancing the acquisition of accepted scientific knowledge with opportunities to apply, question, and use knowledge creatively is a pedagogical challenge. 
       
       

Conceptual Statement, Elizabeth Jordan (back to Elizabeth Jordan)

Many students when asked about hobbies and interests outside of a school atmosphere can regale you with phenomenal examples of in-depth understanding on a topic, extremely creative insights and activities, as well as an internal drive to expand beyond their apparent capabilities and skills. While the development of problems or cases for POL is a necessary component there must also be an environment conducive or a learning community to allow the flexibility necessary for problem solving to occur. From Shavinina & Ferrari it becomes apparent that creativity requires a specific internal fortitude to deviate from the system and cultural expectations. This leads to questions about the environment (the classroom and education system) we expect students to work in. What is it about our environment (and culture?) that requires people with extraordinary cognitive abilities to feel a need to become a "maverick" in order to problem solve and think creatively?
Creative individuals have survived and flourished despite the education system. But within that system, how many people with high potential do we loose? When supervising in science classrooms I am still seeing that same traditional system being displayed. Certainly factors like time constraints, provincial/state exams (STA,GRE), and administrative support take their toll on a teacher and his/her decision making but even within that can we not nurture creativity? Risk taking? Diversity and validation of new ideas?

References:

Shavinina,L.V. & Ferrari, M. (2004) (Eds.) Beyond knowledge: Extracognitive aspects of developing high ability. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

 

Back to:
top of page