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Using the Problem Based Approach for Designing and Implementing Projects. National Academy Foundation Annual Conference Washington D.C. - July 18-20, 2007 John Larmer Buck Institute for Education. The Buck Institute for Education is….

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Using the Problem Based Approach for Designing and Implementing Projects

National Academy Foundation Annual Conference

Washington D.C. - July 18-20, 2007

John LarmerBuck Institute for Education

the buck institute for education is
The Buck Institute for Education is…
  • An educational research and development organization; focused on 21st-century secondary school reform through project based learning
  • A nonprofit 501c(3) funded in perpetuity by the Leonard and Beryl Buck Trust
  • Located in Novato, California (20 mi. north of San Francisco)
what bie does
What BIE Does

-- Project Based LearningHandbook

-- Already-designed project-based curriculum units for high

school Economics and Government (free downloading

on our website,

-- Consulting on curriculum writing / development

-- Certification of PBL trainers and coaches for workshops

and ongoing support for schools, districts, or networks

-- (online PBL tutorial)

-- Research and evaluation of materials and methods

bie s definition of problem based learning
BIE’s Definition of Problem Based Learning:

A teaching method that organizes

curriculum and instruction around carefully

crafted situations, adapted from real-world

issues, that present a problem with more

than one possible solution.

Students gather, apply and demonstrate

knowledge and skills in their quest for and

presentation of solutions.

project based vs problem based learning
“Project Based” vs. “Problem Based” Learning

Both include:

  • Inquiry, discovery, and collaboration
  • “Driving questions” with more than one possible answer
  • Authentic contexts
  • Performance-based assessment
project based vs problem based learning1
Project Based:

May be more of an ‘intellectual investigation’ as opposed to solving a ‘concrete’ problem

Often involves creating a tangible product / performance

A broader category, usually seen in K-12 ed.

Problem Based:

Driving question is written as ‘finding a solution’ to a particular problem

Uses a tightly-crafted scenario

More common in post-secondary ed.

“Project Based” vs. “Problem Based” Learning
Demonstration of

Sample Units

craft the driving question sample entry document one day at work you get this note
Craft the Driving QuestionSample “Entry Document” -- One day at work you get this note...

TO: Chef Team, Hotel Centrale

FROM: Events manager

RE: Upcoming special dinner

Just added to our calendar a dinner for 500

people for next Thursday – a diabetics association

had to change locations (and they sound quite

demanding)! A couple of their people will be here in

3 days to meet with us, so be ready to present a menu

plan for approval.

problem solving strategy
Problem Solving Strategy

What Do We Need ToKnow?

What Do We Know?

Problem Statement

How Can We As…


So That …?

tips for creating an engaging entry point to a pbl unit
Tips for creating an engaging “entry point” to a PBL unit
  • Make it motivating – present the problem as a bit of a mystery, a challenge, and/or an important task
  • Create a “need to know” – do NOT give too many details… let students ask questions
  • Keep it real – or at least realistic
  • Sow the seeds – be sure the “need to know” list will contain the content & skills you’ve targeted
examples of driving questions written as problem statements
Examples of driving questions written as “problem statements”
  • How can we, as business planning consultants, design the most effective strategy for attracting investors?
  • How can we, as travel agents, plan and present a travel portfolio so that our client will have a satisfying experience?
  • How can we, as network designers, create a networking plan that maximizes the productivity of our organization?
steps in classic problem based learning
Steps in “Classic” Problem Based Learning
  • Entry Point
  • Framing the problem
  • Knowledge Inventory (Know/Need to Know)
  • Resource identification
  • Research, expert interviews, data-gathering…
  • Problem Log
  • Teachable Moments and Dialogue
  • Exit from the Problem (solution presentation and comparison)
  • Wrap-up and Debriefing
what research shows about pbl
What research shows about PBL
  • Students learn content as well as or better than other instructional methods.
  • Students retain better what they learn.
  • Students learn vital skills:
    • critical thinking & problem solving
    • collaboration
    • organization & presentation
what bie provides in all units
What BIE Provides in All Units
  • Overview of goals and objectives in the context of typical HS courses
  • Specifically aligned national content standards
  • Detailed step-by-step instructions *
  • Suggestions for coaching students in both process and content; timing and emphasis of lectures & other lessons

* Including estimated time; most units take 5-8 days, but are adjustable

what bie provides in all units1
What BIE Provides in All Units
  • “Problem Log” entry suggestions
  • “Potential Hurdles” and how to overcome them
  • “Ideas to Try” (extensions and modifications)
  • All student handout masters
  • Rubrics, exemplars, and assessment guidelines (PBE also has multiple-choice tests)
  • Content background material for the teacher
  • Additional resources, readings, websites
how teachers typically use our materials
How Teachers Typically Use Our Materials
  • Start with one or two units per semester
  • Some teachers use 4-5 per semester
  • Our units drive the curriculum and instruction; not meant as a “fun activity” after a traditionally-taught unit
  • Textbooks are resources, used when needed
additional benefits to teachers and schools
Additional Benefits to Teachers and Schools
  • PBL is a great way to bring into the classroom other staff, administrators, parents, community members and experts
  • Our units are often used in “showcase” situations like evaluations, school accreditation visits, VIP guests
  • Units are flexible enough to allow for more extensive use of the Internet and other technology
bie s units for problem based economics
BIE’s Units for Problem Based Economics
  • Running in Place: Economists explain the relationship between producers and consumers to the rookie CEO of a new shoe company
  • The High School Food Court: The student council decides which restaurants meet demand, generate profits, and benefit the school
  • The Invisible Hand: U.S.Dept. of Energy staff recommend policy on price controls on gasoline
  • The Great Awakening: Representatives of two nations negotiate a trade agreement using comparative advantage
bie s units for problem based economics1
BIE’s Units for Problem Based Economics
  • Monopoly’s Might:A school-based enterprise tries to make a profit and attract investors in a competitive market
  • The Might Strikes Back:Negotiators for a monopoly, the federal government, and labor unions arrive at a compromise
  • The President’s Dilemma: Advisors help draft a speech on fiscal and monetary policy during an economic crisis
  • Matildaville: A team of advisors help a city plan how to develop vacant land
bie s units for problem based government
BIE’s Units for Problem Based Government
  • A Government for Xlandia:A U.N. task force advises a new nation on comparative forms of democracy and separation of powers
  • Not In My Back Yard: A city manager’s staff recommend a site for homeless housing and defend their policymaking process
  • Fighting Chance: Associates at a law firm decide whether or not to take a 14th-Amendment case involving a woman who wants to join the Army Special Forces
bie s units for problem based government1
BIE’s Units for Problem Based Government
  • The Better Budget:A constituent focus group recommends federal budget cuts for their Congressional representative
  • LegiQuest: Lobbyists devise strategies for enacting legislation on issues of concern to youth
  • On the Campaign Trail:Media consultants decide how to best “market” a candidate, given local issues and constituencies
  • Executive Power Tools:Aides to White House Chief of Staff plan how to implement a new law and consider a presidential signing statement or veto
stay in touch
Stay in Touch
  • Check our website to download units, find workshops and links to other resources, and see future developments:
  • For workshops and curriculum development consulting, contact or call 415-883-0122, ext. 306
  • Sign BIE’s contact list to receive annual updates
  • BIE is seeking regional PBL trainers; contact us if interested