Catherine Rossi


Return to: ETAP 623 Fall 2016 - section #8077

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About me

Currently I am enrolled as a full time student in the CDIT program for Fall 2016. Prior to this semester, I graduated from Elon University in Elon, NC in May 2011 with a BA in Middle Grades Science Education. I was a substitute teacher and a track & field coach when I started the CDIT program in 2013. In August 2013 I moved down to Charleston, SC where I taught 6th and 7th grade science for Charleston County School District for three years. I am now back in my hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY to finish my master's in CDIT!

My Topic: Problem Based Learning (PBL)

Imagine the two scenarios:

Classroom 1- Students have listened to lectures, participated in discussions, viewed images/other media and have read articles on the topic of endangered species. For their summative assessment, these students are to answer a 30 multiple choice exam with a short answer response to demonstrate their knowledge.

Classroom 2- Students have listened to lectures, participated in discussions, viewed images/other media and have read articles on the topic of endangered species. For there summative assessment, these students are becoming investigators on how to protect these animals and create public awareness. They can create posters, movies, or a website to demonstrate their knowledge.

After reading the two scenarios, what assessment sounds more meaningful? While both assessments can show knowledge of a topic, PBL will explore how students can participate in scenarios to apply their knowledge to other experiences to show a deeper understanding of the topic (Power, 2012).

Project Based Learning Instruction for K-12 Educators

Needs Assessment

1. Instructional Problem

Problem based learning (PBL) is an instructional strategy that allows students to learn through problem solving in order to develop content as well as critical thinking skills. In this method, students learn through a facilitated problem solving process that focuses on a complicated problem that does not have a single defined answer (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Students work collaboratively in order to apply their knowledge of the content to develop a solution to the problem at hand.

With district pressures to cover information for state mandated tests, PBL can seem somewhat unapproachable. Student dynamic can also cause instructors to be hesitant of PBL; behavior issues, unwillingness to collaborate and a unique approach to learning can make this strategy more difficult. With quick access to information and a heavy emphasis on choosing the right answer for standardized testing, students may also become frustrated with PBL as there is no set answer.

PBL is worth the planning and design as there are many positive effects for students when participating in this strategy. Students can continue to establish state mandated content knowledge while also developing problem solving skills, positive collaboration and intrinsic motivation (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). This strategy requires time, effort, and dedication, but the opportunity to create a meaningful, authentic learning experience for students will help them applying these skills in their lives outside of school.

2. What is to be Learned

Educators will learn how to streamline and properly design a PBL unit to then be implemented in their classroom. They will also learn strategies for properly executing a PBL one it is effectively designed.

3. The Learners

Learners will include current educators teaching in K-12 environments. Learners will have familiarity of using technology and the internet. They will also be introduced to how certain forms of technology can assist in making PBL more powerful for the students as well for the design. Instruction and activities are geared toward classroom teachers, however, they could also be used for professors of teacher education programs in instructing students on how to design PBL.

4. Goals of this Mini-Course

One goal of this mini-course is to show that innovative and student-centered learning is possible even under the most trying instructional circumstances. This mini-course will also provide resources that educators can access when designing a PBL unit for their students. Second, this course will give example strategies for creating PBL for all levels of education (elementary, middle & high school). A third goal is to guide educators in conducting a needs assessment of their own group of students to designate how to make their PBL the most effective for a particular group of students.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

Learners within this course include educators teaching in K-12 classrooms. Participants will have varying levels of experience in teaching and with various demographics of students.

1. Context for Instruction

Participants will learn content within this mini-course online, in the location of his or her choosing. Accessing the content will require the use of a computer and a stable internet connection.

2. Exploring the Instructional Problem and Solution

Participants will explore sections of the course that will introduce them to potential issues in design and implementation of PBL. Participants will engage in activities that will allow them conduct a needs assessment of their own in order to successfully create and execute a PBL unit that will develop critical thinking skills for their students. File:PBL Needs Assessment Survey.doc

Learning Outcomes/Objectives

By reading my wiki, I hope teachers and educators will be successful in the following learning outcomes:

  • Creating collegial collaborative environments among students
  • Use learning strategies and activities to effectively promote real world problem solving skills
  • Facilitate an environment that encourages creative summative assessment
  • Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding through authentic application experiences

Task Analysis


In this course, participants will explore cases and strategies linked to effective Problem Based Learning (PBL) that will help them design effective PBL units in their K-12 classrooms to promote authentic and inquiry based learning.

End of Course Objectives

  • The participant will demonstrate the use of various strategies and design components to create effective PBL units for K-12 classrooms.
  • The participant will design a summative assessment that aligns content to authentic learning experiences.

Performance Objectives

Unit 1 - Learner Diagnostic

  • The participant will conduct a needs assessment to establish the learning needs or instructional issues within their class.
  • The participant will use data from needs assessment to construct learning goals and outcomes.

Unit 2- Selecting and Aligning the Topic/Problem

  • The participant will conduct research on topics aligned to state mandated curriculum.
  • The participant will select a topic that is relevant to students' lives.
  • The participant will design an authentic scenario to promote engaging problem solving using various media sources.

Unit 3- Creating Performance Tasks

  • The participant will use data from needs assessment to select appropriate tasks that appeal to strengths and interests for students.
  • The participant will construct a task selection menu to incorporate student voice and choice.
  • The participant will create and adapt instructional strategies to promote problem solving skills and collaboration using Microsoft Office.

Unit 4- Formative Assessment

  • The participant will conduct research on effective formative assessment strategies.
  • The participant will use various methods of formative assessment to facilitate student progress and mastery.
  • The participant will use formative assessment data to make instructional decisions regarding student progress.

Unit 5- Summative Assessment

  • The participant will create a summative assessment to promote creativity, collaboration and problem solving.
  • The participant will construct a portfolio rubric to assess mastery of student knowledge.
  • The participant will use rubric and portfolio methods for providing assessment feedback.

Essential Prerequisites

  • The participant will demonstrate the ability to use the functions of Microsoft Office.
  • The participant will demonstrate the ability to conduct research.
  • The participant has experience teaching in a K-12 setting.
  • The participant can access media documents through website such as YouTube, blogs, etc.

Supportive Prerequisites

  • The participant is intrinsically motivated .
  • The participant has a desire to plan for and facilitate inquiry based learning.
  • The participant has interest in creating authentic learning experiences.

Curriculum Map

Attached is the curriculum map which outlines my sequence of instruction for this mini-course.

File:Curriculum Map PBL Mini Course.doc

References and Resources

Crawford, G. B. (2008). Differentiation for the adolescent learner: Accommodating brain development, language, literacy, and special needs (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Hmelo-Silver, C.E. Educational Psychology Review (2004) 16: 235. doi:10.1023/B:EDPR.0000034022.16470.f3

Power, M. (2012, February 7). Project-based learning: Endangered animal unit, part 1. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from