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Problem Based Learning allows students to solve a real-life problem in the classroom. Typically these problems last several months or for the entire school year. Due to the open ended nature of these projects, students are able to utilize higher level thinking skills in your K-12 classroom. PBL motivates students and also encourages creativity while still meeting content standards. 

PBL is not a new learning strategy. In fact, it has been around since the 1960s at a college level. Using in in the encourages students to improve their problem- solving strategies and empowers your students. So, how do you get started?

Students define a problem, explore and acquire new information. As a teacher, you may offer some suggestions, but ultimately, it is up to your students. According to Cornell University, students are taught process through simple sets. After they have defined the problem, they explore what they are ready know about the issue.  Then, they will need to acquire new information to help them solve the problem.

Realize you are giving up “control”. Your students will determine what they want to learn, and you need to help facilitate finding the answers. So, basically, you become a resource for your students. However, you still need to make sure you set rules and expectations for your students. Students will still be accountable for assignments and “check” points you have set for them. Conferencing with your students is just one way that allows you to check to see if they are using their time wisely. Students can also be involved in the evaluation process as they discover if their solution works. Remember there is no “one correct” way to solve these types of problems. By allowing students to report their findings, you empower your students.  In our district, students have reported their findings to classrooms and even school boards. This not only creates a positive school climate, students are taught more about speaking and listening skills. 

Big Universe can help with acquisition of background knowledge, which is vital to the success of implementing Project Based Learning in your classroom.  Here are a few resources that could help you as you guide your students through the process.


Using the Scientific Method Kristen Larson

ISBN: 9781627179805

Rourke Publishing

From the publisher, “Expanding on our popular Lets Explore Science series, this book focuses on the scientific method. The scientific method is a step-by-step process for solving science problems. Scientists use it every day. Explaining each of the five parts: observing and asking questions, researching your topic, forming a hypothesis and testing it, designing and conducting an experiment, and analyzing and drawing conclusions from your result are all mapped out in detail. Learn how this straightforward topic can sometimes be a little trickier than it seems! This book will allow students to generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.”


Engineers solve problems Crystal Sikkens Reagan Miller

ISBN: 9781427194015

Crabtree Publishing Company

From the publisher, “Most people try to avoid problems but not engineers! They go out and look for problems! In this fun, new title readers will learn about the kinds of problems engineers help solve. Readers are also introduced to the tool engineers use to solve problems: The Engineering Design Process is explored.”

We love to hear from our readers, what PBL projects have you “solved” in your classroom?

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