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Science for Everyone: A Problem-Based Learning Approach. George Watson and Barbara Duch [email protected] Department of Physics and Astronomy and Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education. University of Delaware.
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George Watson and Barbara Duch
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Institute for TransformingUndergraduate Education
University of Delaware
Science and Technology Education: Preparing Future Citizens1st IOSTE Symposium in Southern Europe, Paralimni, Cyprus
“True learning is based on discovery guided by mentoring rather than the transmission of knowledge.”
High level of communication skills
Ability to define problems, gather and evaluate information, develop solutions
Team skills -- ability to work with others
Ability to use all of the above to address problems in a complex real-world setting
Quality Assurance in Undergraduate Education (1994) Wingspread Conference, ECS, Boulder, CO.
Make research-based learning the standard.
Build inquiry-based learning throughout the four years.
Link communication skills and course work.
Use information technology effectively.
Cultivate a sense of community.
higher achievement, including knowledge acquisition, accuracy, creativity in problem-solving, and higher reasoning level.
persistence towards goals, intrinsic motivation, applying learning in other situations, greater time on task
Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1998 )
PBL is an instructional method that
challenges students to “learn to learn,”
working cooperatively in groups
to seek solutions to real world problems.
PBL prepares students
to think critically and analytically, and
to find and use appropriate learning resources.
that the starting point for learning should be a problem, a query, or a puzzle that the learner wishes to solve.”
Learning is initiated by a problem.
Problems are based on complex, real-world situations.
All information needed to solve problem is not initially given.
Students identify, find, and use appropriate resources.
Students work in permanent groups.
Models itself on how students learn.
With information overload, prepares students to be life-long learners.
More realistic curriculum prepares students for world outside the classroom.
Ensures more up-to-date materials, content.
Generates enthusiasm among faculty.
Boud and Feletti, 1998
Students are presented with a problem. They organize ideas and previous knowledge.
Students pose questions, defining what they know and don’t know.
Assign responsibility for questions, discuss resources.
Reconvene, explore newly learned information, refine questions.
Problem, Project, or Assignment
Whole Class Discussion
Preparation of Group “Product”
SCEN103 at the University of Delaware
SCEN103 in Spring 2000 was an Honors colloquium designed to introduce first-year students to some of the science behind high technology.
Designed to promote scientific and computer literacy and awareness, SCEN103 gives students an opportunity to leverage their interests in everyday devices and high-tech objects into a study of fundamental science concepts.
Live demonstrations, in-class group explorations of technology applications, and daily work with the Internet are essential elements of SCEN103.
A key feature of the writing-intensive work for this colloquium was the student’s setup and development of a personal website.
Working in small groups, students also created websites devoted to science and technology topics.
This year’s colloquium was designed as a pilot Pathways Course during the discussion of General Education Reform at UD.
Much of the learning in Spring 2000 SCEN103 was done with problem-based learning.
Analyze simple electrical circuits to assess their function and effectiveness.
State and describe fundamental scientific principles underlying modern electronic devices.
Explain the basic operation of electrical circuits, simple semiconductor devices, and integrated circuits.
Identify the contributions of science and technology to everyday life.
Evaluate the information content of Internet resources.
Use graphical and other multimedia elements effectively in a webpage.
Create an informative and organized website devoted to presenting a topic of technical interest from various perspectives.
Access timely, relevant, and authoritative information for problem solving.
Construct technical information into a logical framework for decision making.
Establish a frame of mind where quantitative reasoning is embraced.
Work effectively in a group to solve complex problems.
SCEN103 relies heavily on PBL with students working collaboratively in groups to solve real-world problems.
Students learn to apply simple scientific concepts, find and evaluate scientific and technical information, and communicate ideas about science and technology to others.
Discussions led by the course instructor, plus supplementary lectures, help to give a context and conceptual framework to the problems.
The rate of generation of new information in the scientific and technical sectors is truly staggering.
Information becomes outdated rapidly and is updated constantly; much of what will be needed to know in the workplace following graduation has not been generated yet!
Thus identifying when new information is needed, where to find it, how to analyze it, and how to communicate it effectively are essential skills to learn in college.
An important result of PBL is that while problems are used to identify what to learn, the process of learning "how to learn" is also developed.
This method of instruction has been chosen to help develop skills important for success both in the students’ undergraduate education and in their professional life following graduation.
Effective learning is much more than memorizing information to answer questions on examinations.
Learning is a process that culminates in the ability:
to ask the right questions and frame good problems,
to acquire information and evaluate sources of information,
to critically investigate and solve problems,
to make choices among many alternatives,
to explain concepts to others (both orally and in writing), and
to generalize to new situations.
Problem-Based Learning helps develop these abilities!
Incorporating PBL problems,
Other collaborative exercises, and
Hands-on laboratory exercises.
Two roommates argue about perceived use of electrical energy. Who should pay more towards the utility bill?
Energy = power x time
"How long does it take you to dry your hair?“ came Chris\'s scream from the kitchen. "I\'m trying to concentrate on my physics homework!"
"Do you want the answer as a fraction of a year?“ came Pat\'s retort from the bathroom. "Then you can have fun looking up the conversion to minutes in the back of your textbook!"
"You\'ve been at it for at least 20 minutes. You know, you should have to pay extra toward the electric bill. I bet you spend an hour a day drying your hair. I think $5 extra each month would be about right."
"You\'ve gotta be kidding me. With you and your night light burning all night long, I bet you use much more electricity than me! What are you afraid of anyway?"
"Yeah, but sometimes you fall asleep with your TV blaring. I bet that uses much more than my little night light."
"Oh, please! That only happens once a month. Your Winnie-the-Pooh light is on every night! Besides, how about your incessant showering. You take at least twice as long in the shower as I do. That must cost much more than running my hair dryer. What do you do in there anyway?"
Which roommate should pay a utility premium, Pat or Chris? How much extra?
Hairdryers: How much power?
Students bring in their hairdryers and test all settings. A relationship is discovered among the three circuit quantities while checking the manufacturers’ claims.
Power = current x voltage
A San Francisco Treat
Electrical wiring plans are formulated for a building conversion using floorplans from a “This Old House” project.
Power ratings of appliances
Electrical Energy Use in the World?
Student groups use the CIA’s online World Fact Book to accumulate regional electrical energy use and investigate sources of discrepancies.
Globalization for Pathways Course objective
Mark and Tim Allen rewire a toaster for more power by using hairdryer parts.
Resistance and Ohm’s law
Resistivity and Play-Doh
Students roll out cylinders of various diameters and find a relationship among resistance and geometric factors.
Resistance of a cylinder (wire)
Spring Break Adventure
Students investigate the circuit concepts behind the operation of two familiar battery testers.
Synthesis of cylinder resistance,
Ohm’s law, and
Batteries and Bulbs
Students work from the simplest possible circuit to the challenging circuit on the left and its companion on the right.
Series and parallel combinations
Penetration rates of major consumer products in U.S. households
Historical aspects of electrical use
Students attempt to design a flashlight from a 6V lantern bulb and two AAA cells that will last for five hours.
Batteries and internal resistance
Relate to real-world, motivate students
Require decision-making or judgements
Designed for group-solving
Initial questions open-ended, encourages discussion
Incorporates course content objectives
Challenges to higher-order thinking
Typical end-of-chapter problems can besolved by rote memorization, pattern-match, and plug-and-chug techniques
Good problems should require students to make assumptions and estimates, develop models, and work through the model.
A source of problems outside the commercial texts needs to be developed.
“The problem with problems,” E. Mazur, Optics and Photonic News 7, 59 (1996)
An online database of PBL articles and problems.
All material is peer-reviewed by PBL practitioners for content and pedagogy.
All problems are supported by learning objectives and resources, teaching and assessment notes.
Holdings are searchable by author, discipline, keywords, or full text.
Fully electronic submission, review, and publication cycle.
Controlled access by free user subscription, students excluded.
PBL at the University of Delawarehttp://www.udel.edu/pbl/
Institute for Transforming