Problem-based learning and Project-based learning

April 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Housekeeping: Here’s a brief overview of the topics we will be covering during the remainder of our classes:

Today 4/10: Problem-based learning and project-based learning. Begin your critical thinker’s project (This is what I will call both the problem solving project and the learning adventure)

Tuesday, 4/15: Work on your critical thinkers project.
Thursday, 4/17: Independent workday – class will not meet
Monday, 4/21: Learning Adventure Project recommended due 11:59 pm

Tuesday, 4/22: Problem Solving project presentation/Problem solving and learning adventure project due 11:59pm/ Notes and info for 20% project
Thursday, 4/24: Last day of class, due, 20% project showcase
Friday, 4/25: 20% project due (All you should have left to do after the showcase is your final reflection blog post for your 20% project.)

Tuesday, 4/29: Final reflection for the entire class. That’s it.



Reminders: Remember 100 tweets/ 100 following?

Reminders: You should be working on your 20% project product. Be ready for the showcase!



I believe most of us won’t like to learn something that is not applicable in our daily life, right? I remember I always asked myself the same question when I was learning advanced mathematics in high school. For example, calculating the probability. Do I need to know what the probability of taking a green ball out of the bag while there are 2 green balls mixed with 3 red balls and 2 yellow balls? Therefore, we try to make everything more relevant and applicable.

That is the problem-based learning. We try to solve the real-world/ authentic problems. You see a lot of problem-based learning in architecture education, engineering, business education and medical education.

In the following video, you will see how a teacher conduct problem-based learning in her classroom.

What are some key activities taking place while students are engaged in problem-based learning?

A lot of problem-based learning is strongly connected with project-based learning. Project-based learning does not need to tackle with a real-world problem. At the same time, students are usually more involved or have much more control in the project.

Let’s watch this video about project-based learning.


Together, we’ll watch the video on Applying Math Skills to a Real-World Problem.  What evidence do you see that this is a good project? What are the characteristics of a good project-based learning activity?

Write down some key activities that are included in the project-based learning.

So, can you describe project-based learning? Does it sound familiar?  Many of the projects we do in this course are designed for project-based learning. 20% project? Yes, definitely.


Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.


  1. identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
  2. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
  3. collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
  4. use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

In the textbook we used before, they defined problem solving ability this way.

“Students apply critical and creative thinking skills to prior knowledge during the problem solving process. The end result of problem solving is typically some kind of a decision: choosing a solution and then evaluating it.” (p 155)

“Problem-based learning (PBL) is a teaching approach that combines critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and inquiry as students explore real-world problems. It is based on unstructured, complex, and authentic problems that are often presented as part of a project.” (p 156)

Here is a very nice infographic about project-based learning. Hope this can be a very good reference for your own design.



Learning Adventure or Problem Solving?

Depending on what you have decided to work on, you will spend the rest of the class to start off the first step.

SUBMIT:  Let me know what you are working on for Critical Thinkers Project by submitting this form.

Problem Solving Project

The problem solving process usually goes like this.


Problem identification

Today, you will work on identifying a problem. What do you see as the most annoying, pressing problem at UGA? What have bothered you the most living in Athens?

Here is an example of a problem at UGA.

On a typical game day at the University of Georgia, 90 tons of trash are generated after the football game. This massive amount of disposed items require 1000 collective hours of cleaning up by 100 personnel and $100, 000 per game. There are 10 home games per season. The materials wasted on a game day not only cost money but also cause a serious yet avoidable waste of resources and energy. This waste becomes a serious financial and environmental burden for the University. The University of Georgia turns to EDIT2000 students to suggest a solution to reduce monetary and environmental costs by 50%. What solutions would you recommend for the University? Your solutions should be accompanied by convincing evidence and a detailed, realistic plan of action.

Note that the problem as presented as a case. You are already familiar with cases that we worked on creativity cases.  Usually, a case is written in present tense, short in length, compelling, and appropriate for the reader’s age level to arouse interest and empathy (Herreid, 1997). The case clearly illustrates the dilemma without resolving it.

So, today, your group’s job is to identify a problem.  You may use a think, share, and decide activity.

Think of a problem you encounter at UGA or in Athens. What do you see as the most annoying, pressing problem at UGA? What have bothered you the most living in Athens?

1. Think: Write down your idea individually on a piece of paper.

2. Share: Tell your team members about what problems you identified.

3. Decide: Pick one of the problems suggested by your team members. As a group, describe the problem as a case to solve.

Problem Definition

Your group has identified the problem and turned it into a case. Now, let’s look more closely at the problem. What else do you need to know to better understand about the problem and eventually suggest a solution? Without understanding clearly about the problem, you may not be able to devise a realistic, effective solution.  This Website can help your approach to problem definition. Think of the following to define your problem.

Consider these questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Is it my problem?
  • Can I solve it? Is it worth solving?
  • Is this the real problem, or merely a symptom of a larger one?
  • If this is an old problem, what’s wrong with the previous solution?
  • Does it need an immediate solution, or can it wait?
  • Is it likely to go away by itself?
  • Can I risk ignoring it?
  • Does the problem have ethical dimensions?
  • What conditions must the solution satisfy?
  • Will the solution affect something that must remain unchanged?


When problem solving, identify the causes of the problem in order to solve it.

  • Identify causes of your problem
    Look at the current situation, rather than its history
    Do not consider the “trouble” it creates whether now or in the future.
  • List and organize the causes of the problem


How to submit

Within your group, use a Google Doc to organize your problem solving flow and write collaboratively with your group members.  Be sure to invite me ( as a collaborator to your shared document.


Learning Adventure

PART ONE: Adventure Project Requirements

Review the rubric. This form will also serve as a guide to how you might pace your work so that it can be completed by the due date.


PART TWO: What is an essential question?

You’ll want to get students interested in your topic by starting with an essential question. We’re going to try and write a few ourselves today.

  1. On an index card, write a question related to a topic about which you enjoy learning. For example, “what happened to the dinosaurs?”, “why did the Titanic sink”, etc.
  2. Get in a group with 3 other classmates, and use a tubric to turn your question into an essential question.
  3. How good is your question? Use the essential question development checklist on the last page of this handout to see how well you did.
  4. Wonderopolis is a great place to get information and ideas for your adventures.


PART THREE: Getting Started

For the remainder of today’s class, you’ll want to work with your partner (if you have one) to come up with ideas for your essential question.

You’ll also want to create a new Google site (not a new page in your current site) and do the following:

o   Make sure the title of your site reflects the nature of your adventure.

o   Share permissions within your site with your partner (if you have one). You will want to make sure both of you can make edits. Here’s a video to help you choose the correct settings.

o   Make sure your navigation bar reflects the sections in the rubric distributed in class today.


PART Four: Backwards design: Student Product

Sometimes the best way to figure out what you want to teach is to first figure out what you want students to be able to do. When you’re cooking, most of the time you decide what you want to eat BEFORE you get together your ingredients. At least, in the more successful times that you are cooking. So, let’s figure out what kinds of projects your students might complete – then we’ll working on organizing resources to help them create their projects. Just as we choose a recipe by looking at pictures, a lot of kids will choose your adventure based on the project they will complete.

Now it’s time to brainstorm project ideas. What kinds of projects might your student do? Will they create a glogster poster to show how they define a hero? Or will they create a video to talk about recycling? Maybe you’ll encourage your student to start a blog to help other middle schooler’s learn how to keep their personal hygiene. Here’s a long list of project ideas. Read about Twenty Ideas for Engaging Projects for more ideas.

Once you have a question and a project in mind, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to help students come up with an answer to your question and show you what they know (i.e. what they believe the answer is) with some type of project.


For Next Class:

  • These two projects are quite large and you will need to pace yourself. It is highly recommended that you complete what we covered today before you come back on Tuesday. We will do a whole lot more on Tuesday.
  • Read this Scholastic article about project-based learning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Problem-based learning and Project-based learning at EDIT 2000.


%d bloggers like this: