Incorporating Problem Based Learning Using the Scientific Method


Welcome to my portfolio page for ETAP 623! Here is where we lay out our Design Project for the Spring Semester 2011.

Return to my Biography April Taylor

Return to ETAP 623 Spring 2011

Incorporating Problem Based Learning Using the Scientific Method

Science classroom.jpg


Take a moment and picture a high school science classroom full of students and their teacher? What are the students doing? What is the teacher doing? Typically when we picture a science classroom we imagine a classroom where students are actively participating in a laboratory setting, but as we all have experienced this is not an everyday occasion in the classroom. Teachers must balance the degree to which a classroom or learning environment is student centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered.

Problem Based Learning is a technique that allows teachers to answer the age old question students continually ask "Why are we learning this?" PBL tasks help learners link school activities to life, providing the "why" for doing the activity. Teachers can begin to step back from the spotlight as the entertainer and sole provider of information and take on the role of facilitator. This allows a smooth transition from a knowledge centered classroom to a more student centered classroom where students are essentially in control of their learning.

Intent of Project

The intent of this mini-course is to provide the learner with an opportunity to experience how problem based learning (PBL) can be applied to any science classroom, particularly its use to assist students in the mastery of the scientific method concept.

Learning outcomes and topics to be covered:

Participants must understand what problem-based learning is and how it can effectively be used in the classroom to engage learners.

  • What is problem-based learning?
  • Why this methodology is important and useful?
  • What scientific methods are and how they can be use to support problem based learning?
  • How to effectively facilitate problem based learning?

Needs Assessment

The nature of what is to be learned: Teachers will learn what problem-based learning is, why problematic based tasks are effective, and how to implement and facilitate problem based learning tasks that support the scientific method.

About the learners (Learner Profile): This course will be designed for science teachers to better instruct and engage students as they perform science inquiry. Each learner will hold a unique educational background and work experience, no two learners will be alike. Despite the wide array of science certification levels, the learners will all be inspired by the need to motivate their students.

Course Objectives

As a result of this mini-course, the participants will be able to:

  • Describe in their own words the stages of a problem based learning task.
  • When given a prompt summarize the goals/purpose for using problem based learning tasks.
  • Define and model the role of a teacher within problem base learning.
  • Recognize and justify the importance of implementing problem based learning within a science classroom to support mastery of the scientific method.


Science equipment.png Unit 1: What is Problem Based Learning?

  • Design an experimental procedure to assist answering a problem based learning task.
  • Describe the key ingredients for a problem based learning task.
  • Summarize the goals/purpose for using problem based learning task within a classroom.

Science equipment.png Unit 2: Applying Problem Based Learning to the Science Classroom using the Scientific Method

  • Modify and restructure a given investigative activity into a problem based learning task.

Science equipment.png Unit 3: Facilitating Problem Based Learning

  • Define the role of a teacher within a PBL task
  • Describe how teachers can help students focus their investigations in a more constructive manner.
  • Recognize teacher hesitancy behind implementing PBL into the classroom and justifies its usefulness.


Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R.R. (1999). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School