2 Tutorials that teach PBL or Constructivist lesson development for a blended environment
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PBL or Constructivist lesson development for a blended environment

PBL or Constructivist lesson development for a blended environment

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson students will learn how to adapt a lesson for a blended environment steeped in the tenets of PBL or Constructivism

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Welcome to tutorial on PBL, or constructivist lesson development for a blended environment. In today's tutorial, we will discuss the following question-- "How can I update a lesson for a blended learning environment to include constructivist or PBL theories?"

So let's take a moment to quickly recap PBL and constructivist teaching and learning. And we'll start with PBL, or problem-based learning. In problem-based learning, students go through an extended process of learning in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge.

In this type of learning, there is student voice, and the students have choices. Projects are rigorous, and they're carefully planned, managed, and assessed by the teacher. Students learn key academic content, practice 21st-century skills-- like collaboration and communication-- and create high-quality, authentic products in presentations.

Constructivist teaching and learning is where students construct or create their own meaning. Inquiry methods are used. Teachers provide the content and facilitate the learning, while students are given voice in their learning. And the learning is learner-centered-- not teacher-directed.

Let's look at Marzano's lesson design question, "What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?" We'll specifically look at elements 21, 22, and 23, with this design question-- organizing students for cognitively complex tasks, engaging students in cognitively complex tasks involving hypothesis generation and testing, and providing resources and guidance.

This is a design question that we'll use to generate our lesson with a PBL or a constructivist focus. Let's take a look at our original lesson plan that has to do with natural resources and waste reduction.

In this lesson, students would learn about natural resources and their threats-- threats like pollution, development, and over-consumption. They would read materials in text and on the internet, watch videos, participate in class discussion, and use guided questions to think about these ideas. Students would research and write a report on the ways to protect our natural environment and best use natural resources. Their reports would be posted on a class blog.

As a teacher, if we wanted to update this lesson using problem-based learning concepts, we might have our students use the prompt or idea, "Natural systems and resources are being threatened by negative impacts of development, pollution, and over-consumption. What can you do to make a difference?"

Students would make a plan, and create a presentation to present in a community forum. In groups, students would research natural resources and their threats. Together they would generate a plan of action to make a difference in one area-- their school, neighborhood, city or home.

Groups would create a multimedia presentation using Prezi, and they would choose and define roles within the group for each member. These presentations would be shared at a community forum, where students would field questions on their ideas and their presentations.

Let's look at each of the blended learning environments, and what this might look like. We'll start with face-to-face driver. And remember, this is a teacher-led learning environment. The teacher integrates technology as determined. This method allows for a lot of flexibility. Students can work at their own pace.

Here's an example of what this might look like with our new, updated lessen. The teacher prompts a class discussion using guided questions. The teacher has students use technology to research further. Additional material may be assigned as needed.

Let's look at rotation. Remember, rotation is when the students rotate between online courses and traditional courses or work. It's generally a fixed schedule, and stations can be used in rotation.

This would look like the teacher setting up a rotating workstation system for specific intervals. At each station is a new task. Traditional learning may include reading an article, or a group discussion using guided questions. Online learning might include watching a video online, or a specific website. So maybe some of our learning stations involve using ideas we've discussed in class in the past, like natural resources and what they are, and bringing those into our new task of creating a solution for our problem.

Let's look at the model of flex. In this model, most of the instruction is online, but there's access to a teacher as needed. The students use self-guided and independent learning.

In flex, groups might use devices or computers in the classroom to do their research and create their presentations. The teacher would walk around and check in as needed.

Let's look at online lab. Classes are taken online and in a classroom or school setting, such as a lab. Students might take all of their courses online, including one on environmental science. These classes would be taken at a traditional school in a lab. And in the online lab model, the teacher of the environmental science class could give the students this project as one of their assignments.

Because it's an online class, the students that form the groups would have to work online using discussion boards or different websites that allowed for that collaboration and communication while not always being in the same physical environment.

Let's look at the model of self-blend. In the model of self-blend, traditional school is attended, but students also choose supplemental online instruction. It's popular for high school electives or advanced placements.

Students might enroll in a separate environmental sciences course. This course would be separate from classes at traditional school, but would supplement their learning. And again, in this environmental sciences course, the teacher would assign this project as an assignment, and the students would use those same discussion boards or collaborative websites where they got together online and formed ideas and worked through the project together.

Let's look at the model of online driver. Here, students work online at home. Primarily online material is delivered, but there is a chance for in-person check-ins with the school, or even chatting with the teacher online. This model promotes flexibility and independence.

Students might enroll in a separate online course in environmental sciences. A teacher is available to check in as needed. And again, because this is a course in environmental science, this teacher would give the students this lesson as a project, or one of their assignments. And the students, because they're working in an online-only environment, would need to use discussion board or other websites where they could communicate together online to work through this assignment.

When you're thinking about updating a lesson for a blended learning environment using problem-based learning or constructivist teaching methods, it's important to think about the pedagogical strategies that are important in this type of learning environment. We want our students to have strong student engagement. We want our tasks to be relevant and authentic. We want our classroom to be full of collaboration and communication. Our students need to have a voice and choice in their learning.

Students need to own their own learning. It needs to be a student-led environment-- not a teacher-directed environment. New understanding needs to be transferred. Students must learn how to construct new meaning out of knowledge, and transfer their understanding to different situations to solve new problems in all kinds of different contexts. Our students need to have higher-order thinking skills, and become actively engaged in inquiry throughout these lessons. Students need to learn and understand varied perspectives, and reflect on their learning.

In the problem-based learning classroom, or the constructivist classroom we can use things like group work, guided questions, class discussions, and other collaborative opportunities for all of these things to happen. So we need to think about our pedagogical strategies as we implement these lessons.

Let's apply these ideas by thinking about the question, "Can you think of a lesson you've used that can be updated to use PBL--" problem-based learning-- "or constructivist elements in various blended learning environments?"

Let's talk about what we learned today. We discussed the question, "How can I update a lesson for blended learning to include constructivist or problem-based learning theories?" And we took a lesson that we updated to a problem-based learning teaching method. And we walked through all the different models of a blended learning environment, and how that might look in each of those learning environments.

We also talked about the important pedagogical strategies that we need to think about. There are several observable behaviors that must be evident in your updated lesson plan. These include things like strong student engagement; authentic, relevant tasks; collaboration; communication; transfer of learning and understanding; and higher-order thinking skills. This type of classroom and lesson would be a very student-led, inquiry-based lesson-- not a teacher-directed lesson.

Thanks for joining me today as we talked about updating a lesson for a blended environment using PBL or constructivist theories. I hope you're able to use these ideas in your classroom.

For more information on how to apply what you've learned in this video, please visit the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on "PBL or Constructivist lesson development for a blended environment"


(00:00- 00:17) Introduction/objectives

(00:18- 00:56) What is PBL?

(00:57- 01:14) What is Constructivist Based Learning?

(01:15- 01:46) Applying Marzano’s Design Questions

(01:47- 03:18) Example lesson/applying PBL to example lesson

(03:19- 06:56) Updated lesson in blended learning environments

(06:57- 08:17) Pedagogical strategies

(08:18- 08:31) Reflection/application questions

(08:32- 09:55) Review 

Additional Resources

West Virginia Teach21 Project Based Learning

This site provides sample Problem Based Learning lesson plans from the West Virginia Department of Education. Click on your subject and grade to find examples that you may find useful in your implementation of PBL.

The PBL Superhighway... Over 45 Links to Great Project Based Learning

This post from Michael Gorman's blog, 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning, provides many useful links. In particular, The Learning Review is a link to fabulous Project Based Learning ideas, lesson plans, examples, and templates.

West Virginia Department of Education Problem Based Learning Lesson Plan Template 

In addition to the PBL template, this site provides an overview of PBL and links to standards based lessons and units for your review.