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Rewards & Challenges of Faculty Collaboration in Interdisciplinary PBL. Richard Donham Steve Fifield University of Delaware. Science for Preservice Teachers (typical). Science is taught through a series of temporally disconnected and conceptually nonintegrated courses.

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Rewards challenges of faculty collaboration in interdisciplinary pbl

Rewards & Challenges of Faculty Collaboration in Interdisciplinary PBL

Richard Donham

Steve Fifield

University of Delaware

Science for preservice teachers typical
Science for Preservice Teachers (typical) Interdisciplinary PBL

  • Science is taught through a series of temporally disconnected and conceptually nonintegrated courses.

  • Science and science curriculum (methods) courses also are disconnected, or at least not jointly coordinated.

Connected to Real World Interdisciplinary PBL

Focused on “Big Ideas”

Goals Of Undergraduate

Science Education

For Preservice Teachers

Develop Learning Skills


Not four courses taught sequentially Interdisciplinary PBL

Science by Total Immersion

Earth, Life, Physical Science

The Science Semester

15 Credits

Science Curriculum Course

Real-World Problems

Instructional team
Instructional Team Interdisciplinary PBL

  • Taught by faculty from School of Education, Biology, Geology and Physics and Astronomy

  • Faculty committed to collaboration, including co-teaching each problem.

  • Programmatic evaluation

Instructional Strategies Interdisciplinary PBL

Students Think About the

Issues And Challenges

of Teaching Science

Students Learn About Earth,

Life and Physical Science

Through PBL problems

Course characteristics pbl problems
Course Characteristics: PBL Problems Interdisciplinary PBL

  • What is Energy?

  • Kids, Chemicals & Cancer

  • How Do I Know if My Students Got It?

  • Limulus polyphemus! Science Semester Investigates Delaware’s Marine Animal.

  • Expectations on student responsibility for learning increases through units.

  • Although each problem has a disciplinary focus, each instructor has responsibilities to each problem

Course planning and research
Course Planning and Research Interdisciplinary PBL

  • Weekly planning meetings of instructors

  • Small groups of student volunteers were interviewed (taped and transcribed) during semester by non-instructional researcher (Fifield)

  • End of year semistructured interviews (taped and transcribed) of instructors as a group by Fifield.

Class student characteristics
Class/Student Characteristics Interdisciplinary PBL

  • Sophomore elementary education majors

  • All student work was done in semi-permanent groups, but there was both individual and group assessment.

  • Successful students, but not science majors

  • 90%+ women, about 60 students per class

Faculty reflections on student transitions during semester
Faculty Reflections on Student Transitions during semester Interdisciplinary PBL

Question: From a big picture perspective, how did the investigations work?

“ the first investigation they’re looking for …what do I need to do to get an ‘A’…slowly through “energy” they struggle with that, then, during ‘Kids’ you can see their science content begin to develop a bit… at the end, my sense is that they understand evidence and inference.”

“There wasn’t really anything else in the whole nature of science area…the most important piece of nature of science is evidence and inference”

Instructors reflecting on student understanding of conceptual strands that run through the problems

Faculty reflections on student transitions during semester1
Faculty Reflections on Student Transitions during semester Interdisciplinary PBL

“I don’t have a good feeling for what they know…in traditional earth science, you know they have 50 minutes of clouds and 50 minute of that…whereas with our approach we’ve given them some skills…they still will forget stuff…(but) they have the skills to really think about these topics and ways to look at them when they get to their science teaching.”

Faculty reflections
Faculty Reflections Interdisciplinary PBL

…I didn’t see that they missed some of the big ideas of anything…really the learning (of teaching) actually starts in the classroom, when they… figure out how to define their approaches, but the big idea of the importance of student’s ideas and planning and…. So, I am happy with what they learned.”

Education faculty thinking about student understanding of the problems of teaching science

Faculty reflections1
Faculty reflections Interdisciplinary PBL

“they matured considerably…they are more modest in their approach to learning and teaching, not resentful, and that maturation is higher than I would see in a regular methods course, where they think they know how to teach already…”

Education faculty comparing SS students with her other sections of methods course

Faculty reflections on student s thinking
Faculty reflections on student’s thinking Interdisciplinary PBL

“on their course evaluations, they rated their science learning comfort higher than their science teaching comfort. They all pointed to their need to teach more, so, it does not come from the lack of knowing how to do things as much as a lack of experience at having done them.”

Education faculty reflections-increased amount of student microteaching of science in course

Faculty reflections observing another instructor
Faculty Reflections: Observing another instructor Interdisciplinary PBL

“the whole classroom changed that day…it was beautiful to see how much good will that simple change bought from the students…

the difference that made was the good will it brought towards trying to put them through more difficult things.”

  • Context: Providing detailed list of expectations and dates of deliverables

  • Resulted in embedded policy of being explicit about “deliverables” well in advance of their due date.

Instructor reflecting on student attitudes

Faculty reflections about the course students
Faculty Reflections About The Course & Students Interdisciplinary PBL

“it made a huge difference going last because all the things we introduced could be brought into play…I just read the last two writing assignments and its really improved from what they did at the beginning…”

Resulted in increased

student writing, with

emphasis on preliminary

drafts and peer feedback.

Instructor reflecting on student writing abilities

Faculty reflection on course goals content
Faculty Reflection on course goals & content Interdisciplinary PBL

“we could really… think about what is the beginning level of skill in writing or oral communication… and is it a goal to improve that skill in the course, and how do we do that in a step wise way….

“The more we can have them serve as editors….it actually improved the way they wrote….”

Student attitudes
Student Attitudes Interdisciplinary PBL

“they learn something in methods about inquiry ...they begin to see the value for children, but they see no value for themselves…in course evaluations, asked to evaluate our effectiveness, they use traditional criteria…’how well did we lecture’…’how well did we answer questions’…some even said, ‘they shouldn’t just teach by lectures, they should try other methods of teaching.’”

Instructor reflecting on student interviews. Students are struggling with what effective teaching looks like.

Student attitudes1
Student Attitudes Interdisciplinary PBL

“they know what teachers are supposed to do, and you’re not doing it, initially that angers them…they figure ’ok, we need to know about this, cause this is what we’re going to do to children’, but it’s still frustrating to them, sort of, ‘I don’t need this!’ ”

Reflections on Student Interviews by Fifield

Student attitudes2
Student Attitudes Interdisciplinary PBL

“Student frustration can be a good thing when connected to a learning challenge, …spend your frustration dollars wisely, frustration connected with what they perceive as inadequate planning , or not communicating with the people you’re teaching with, that drives them crazy.”

Reflections on Student Interviews by Fifield

Faculty reflections2
Faculty Reflections Interdisciplinary PBL

“…there is a need, in life, to go into the small little details of a particular content, and I don’t want students to be afraid of that. I want them to go….there’s nothing wrong with chasing down a detail at all…they take those details and make sense out of them in this bigger framework…”

Instructor reflecting on course content and expectations

Instructor s retrospective view of science semester
Instructor’s retrospective view of Science Semester Interdisciplinary PBL

  • Faculty are just OK with content, but want to challenge students with expectations that are higher on the Perry scale-drive them to do more analysis, synthesis, evaluation.

  • Often students pass through doubt, anger, frustration, as well as appreciation.

  • Students may say they accept the need for science to be taught with inquiry, but think that they are an exception

Instructor s retrospective view of science semester1
Instructor’s retrospective view of Science Semester Interdisciplinary PBL

  • For faculty one of the main rewards has been collaboration with each other.

  • Learning content in depth is a life skill that goes toward building attitudes toward a discipline.

Science semester for faculty
Science Semester for faculty Interdisciplinary PBL

Teaching as Learning

Teaching as Research


Teaching as Collaboration