Fostering Socioscientific Reasoning in Problem-based Learning: Examining Teacher Practice

By Krista D. Glazewski and Peggy A. Ertmer.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Much of the potential success in problem-based learning (PBL) rests on the teacher (Neville, 1999). In order for PBL teachers to achieve the anticipated outcomes, they need to enact specific strategies that enable student success (Kolodner et al., 2003). This includes helping students master strategies for: 1) conducting effective information searches, 2) working successfully in groups, and 3) learning relevant content embedded in the problem. Currently, there exists little guidance for secondary teachers regarding how to facilitate student learning during PBL. Without this, novice PBL teachers can easily fall into the trap of thinking that because PBL may be interesting, students are learning meaningful information. As a first step in addressing this need, we examined the PBL implementation strategies of a middle-school science teacher to investigate how a middle school science teacher supports inquiry specifically related to student research, collaboration, and content learning. This study used an interpretive case study design to investigate the student support methods among a middle school science teacher during her facilitation of a socioscientific PBL unit. While the teacher employed a variety of support strategies, she was ultimately disappointed with student performance. We suggest the students may have been more successful with the use of additional support, such as consistent feedback to bolster students’ research efforts, structuring journal entries and whole group discussion to foster more effective group processes, and employing reflection techniques to support content learning. Nonetheless, complex problem solving environments are difficult for both the students and the teacher. Greater experience with targeted strategies may prove beneficial for both.

Keywords: Problem Based Learning, PBL, Socioscientific Reasoning, Scaffolding, Critical Thinking

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp.269-282. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.273MB).

Dr. Krista D. Glazewski

Assistant Professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

Krista D. Glazewski is an Associate Professor of learning technologies at New Mexico State University. Her research endeavors reflect a continuing goal to pursue research and scholarly efforts that will have a positive impact on K-12 education. Her research emphasis from an instructional development perspective is to develop methods and strategies for supporting active engagement of students within authentic problem-solving contexts. Currently, she is extending research in this area to develop a deeper understanding of diverse learners’ experiences in problem-based learning, such as low-achieving, English-language, and special needs learners. In addition, she examines means for effectively promoting and supporting authentic problem-solving approaches with teachers, and collaborates with a number of area school districts to support pre- and in-service teachers’ efforts.

Dr. Peggy A. Ertmer

Professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Dr. Peggy A. Ertmer is a Professor of Educational Technology in the College of Education at Purdue University. She specializes in instructional design (ID) and educational research. Her scholarship focuses on the impact that student-centered instructional approaches and strategies have on learning outcomes. She is particularly interested in the impact of inquiry-based instruction on higher-order thinking skills; the adoption of student-centered, inquiry-based learning approaches by k-12 teachers; and strategies for facilitating higher-order thinking and self-regulated learning in online, inquiry-based learning environments. Most recently, Dr. Ertmer has examined how students’ problem-solving skills are shaped through their engagement in case-based learning. Dr. Ertmer has published scholarly works in premier national and international journals including the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Educational Psychology, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, and Educational Technology Research and Development. In addition, she has co-edited 3 editions of the ID Case Book: Case Studies in Instructional Design and is the founding editor of a new journal, the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, published by Purdue University Press.


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