A Journey Through Technology

Week 7:What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?

on March 3, 2016

PBL, either problem- or project-based learning, “is a teaching method in which student gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” (What is project-based learning?) Typically the problem in PBL is “ill-structured”, or has multiple correct solutions. (Hmelo-Silver, 2004) There are two general goals in PBL (Ertmer & Simons, 2006):

  1. Promote a deeper understanding of the content
  2. Develop higher-order thinking skills for students

Most teachers could probably agree that these are goals we have for all of our students, but that are not easily obtained. One reason that teachers do not often use PBL in their classroom is that they are both unfamiliar and uncomfortable “with the new roles and responsibilities required by this type of open-ended learning environment.” (Land,  2000, as cited in Ertmer & Simons, 2006)

We’ve been looking at differentiation for the past six weeks, and PBL appears to share common traits with a differentiated classroom, for example a change in the roles of both teachers and students. In a differentiated classroom, teachers shift their role from knowledge-deliverer to learning-facilitator, which also seems to be a big part of using PBL. “Throughout this process, the teacher’s role is to guide and advise, rather than to direct and manage, student work.” (Solomon, 2003)

A big part of PBL that is intimidating to me is the thought of completely shifting my classroom model to something that is so different from what I am used to doing. However, in Tracy Schloemer’s blog post about PBL, she shares that she held that same misconception. In her classroom, PBL only represents part of the learning process for her students. She also uses “structured inquiry or a more traditional confirmation/verification format.” (Schloemer, 2015)

If I can learn to use PBL as one tool in my classroom, my students could potentially learn much more than I could ever teach them using my current methods. “PBL promotes students’ confidence in their problem-solving skills and strives to make them self-directed learners.” (Problem-Based Learning, 2001)


Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL implementation hurdle: Supporting the efforts of K–12 teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(1), 5. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dimplementing%2BPBL%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2#search=%22implementing%20PBL%22 on February 29, 2016.

Hmelo-Silver, Cindy E. (2004) Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn?. Educational psychology review 16(3), 235-266. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=13682403&site=ehost-live on February 29, 2016.

Problem-based Learning. (2001). Standford University Newsletter on Teaching, 11(1). Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/cgi-bin/docs/newsletter/problem_based_learning.pdf on February 29, 2016.

Schloemer, T. (2015, June 01). Why consider trying project based learning? Retrieved from http://www.chemedx.org/blog/why-consider-trying-project-based-learning on February 29, 2016.

Solomon, G. (2003). Project-based learning: A primer. TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING-DAYTON-, 23(6), 20-20. Retrieved from: http://pennstate.swsd.wikispaces.net/file/view/pbl-primer-www_techlearning_com.pdf on February 29, 2016.

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bie.org/about/what_pbl on February 29, 2016.

3 responses to “Week 7:What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?

  1. aletakmay says:

    Sarah K.

    I agree that many teachers are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with how to teach PBL pedagogy. It seems that it is like taking teachers even beyond the role to learning-facilitator because PBL is more thematic when I visualize it. Teaching across content areas may require more team collaboration when planning PBL projects.

    When teaching multi-grade levels, it is so much easier (once a general blueprint plan is put in place by the teachers) to teach the same topic/theme and allow each student to go to the research and hands on depth they can reach, than it is to teach each subject at each grade level. Imagine then taking the bars down for differentiating even within one grade level classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you discuss teachers being uncomfortable or unfamiliar with PBL, I am the first person to raise my hand. I teach math, and I have a hard time wrapping my brain around how to teach this way. I am a visual learner and I love watching people teach. I always learn something new, but the opportunity doesn’t come up much anymore. I am definitely one that would benefit from observing a teacher with experience teaching by PBL. With all that said, I also like the idea of incorporating PBL some of the time, not all of the time. It seems less daunting.


  3. clayedet637 says:

    I appreciate your discussion of PBL and how it is difficult to begin to implement. The resources you found, especially the chemistry teacher’s blog, seem very helpful. One of the scaffolds I read about in multiple sources this week described the importance of learning about PBL with other teachers, in order to create a collaborative learning community. This can be a difficult goal to accomplish in small Alaskan schools, and blogs such as the one you researched can be useful tools to creating online learning communities for teachers in isolated places. She gives useful advice to start out using PBL some of the time in your classroom at first. This is a much more realistic model than completely shifting from traditional instruction to student-centered learning all at once.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: