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5.3: Designing the learning environment

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    Designing the learning environment

    The following elements are commonly associated with PBL activities.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): This graphic depicts the process of Problem Based Inquiry. Students are presented with real world problems in a situated context. The students use critical thinking to formulate ideas and develop reasoning skills. Problem Based Inquiry involves the use of many resources, communication with others, and cooperation within the learning environment. Situated Cognition, Constructivism, Social Learning and Communities of Practice are elements of Problem Based Inquiry.

    Problem generation: The problems must address concepts and principles relevant to the content domain. Problems are not investigated by students solely for problem solving experiences but as a means of understanding the subject area. Some PBL activities incorporate multidisciplinary approaches, assuming the teacher can provide and coordinate needed resources such as additional content, instructional support, and other teachers. In addition, the problems must relate to real issues that are present in society or students’ lives. Contrived scenarios detract from the perceived usefulness of a concept.

    Problem presentation: Students must “own” the problem, either by creating or selecting it. Ownership also implies that their contributions affect the outcome of solving the problem. Thus, more than one solution and more than one method of achieving a solution to the problem are often possible. Furthermore, ownership means that students take responsibility for representing and communicating their work in a unique way.

    Predetermined formats of problem structure and analysis towards resolution are not recommended; however, the problem should be presented such that the information in the problem does not call attention to critical factors in the case that will lead to immediate resolution. Ownership also suggests that students will ask further questions, reveal further information, and synthesize critical factors throughout the problem-solving process.

    Teacher role: Teachers act primarily as cognitive coaches by facilitating learning and modeling higher order thinking and meta cognitive skills. As facilitators, teachers give students control over how they learn and provide support and structure in the direction of their learning. They help the class create a common framework of expectations using tools such as general guidelines and time lines.

    As cognitive modelers, teachers think aloud about strategies and questions that influence how students manage the progress of their learning and accomplish group tasks. In addition, teachers continually question students about the concepts they are learning in the context of the problem in order to probe their understanding, challenge their thinking, and help them deepen or extend their ideas.

    Student role: Students first define or select an ill-structured problem that has no obvious solution. They develop alternative hypotheses to resolve the problem and discuss and negotiate their conjectures in a group. Next, they access, evaluate, and utilize data from a variety of available sources to support or refute their hypotheses. They may alter, develop, or synthesize hypotheses in light of new information. Finally, they develop clearly stated solutions that fit the problem and its inherent conditions, based upon information and reasoning to support their arguments. Solutions can be in the form of essays, presentations, or projects.

    5.3: Designing the learning environment is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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