Kaitlynn Connington

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Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2019 Section 5933 (Byrne) [[ kaitlynn's Mini-Course]]

About Me

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Hi! My name is Kaitlynn Connington and I am in my second year of teaching. I currently teach regents Earth Science, General Science, and an intensive Active Physics course at Tappan Zee High School in Rockland County. This is my fourth semester in the CDIT program and hope to finish this December. After I complete my masters I would like to try and obtain my second science certification to be able to teacher physics as well as earth science. Besides being in the classroom I also coach our schools science olympiad team. Proud to say my team did AWESOME this year at our regional competition. So proud of my kiddies for placing in the top 10 in 8 events throughout the whole competition.

When I'm not in the classroom or doing school work, I like to spend time with my family. I live with my grandma in a separate apartment, which happens to be right next door to my parents house. I love spending time with my little brother and sister who are currently in the middle school. Our favorite things to do are going to the movies, shopping, and eating junk food. I also love to travel. It's my dream to go across the country and see all the national parks.

My Topic/Purpose

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The purpose of my mini course is to discuss incorporating problem solving skills, through problem based learning in science classrooms. As a science educator in New York State, our standards are currently changing. According to the next generation standards, our curriculum will be shifted from rote memorization of facts, to problem solving, evaluation, creating, and analyzing data. As a new teacher, basically everything we learned in undergraduate school can be thrown out the window.

When introducing problem based learning in the classroom it is important to analyze the curriculum and goals for student's before developing a learning problem. Without knowing and outlining standards set forth for students', it would be difficult to create aligned curriculum assignments.

Once the objectives and goals are set, an authentic open ended problem can be introduced. This problem should be open ended enough as well as relative to the students personal lives to drive the students through curiosity, motivating them to answer the question. Lessons and activities will be focused towards the authentic question. Activities will be student centered concentrated on developing higher level thinking skills such as, analyzing data, creating graphs and diagrams, as well as synthesizing real world information.

At the end of the problem based learning unit, an authentic assessment is introduced to evaluate the students knowledge on the topic. This assessment should be aligned with the learning objectives and standards. Such authentic assessments can range from developing a model, writing a letter to a representative, taking a test, creating an experiment, producing an public service announcement, to creating a portfolio. The purpose of an authentic assessment serves as a challenge for the students, as well as an encouraging students to show off their higher order thinking skills, and understanding of the topics content.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this mini course, participants will be able to:

  • Define and see the value in Problem based Learning
  • Identify key learning objectives for students
  • Develop an authentic learning problem/question
  • Construct a curriculum map in which outlines their PBL unit

Needs Assessment/Learner Analysis

Needs Assessment

Instructional Problem:The need for a problem based learning unit within a science classroom in order to increase student problem solving skills, analytical sills, evaluating skills and creativity.

  • Reasoning: With the recent change in NYS science standards, students are encouraged to think more critically about subject matter and apply their knowledge to real world situations. Science curricula is being shifted from teacher centered to student centered and this mini course will serve as an aid for teachers who want to transition their classrooms.

The Nature of What is Being Learned:Participants (i.e. teachers) will learn how to effective create and introduce a problem based learning unit within their science classrooms.

About the Learners: In this mini course two groups of people will be included;

  • Participants (i.e. teachers)- Graduate level students with a minimum of two years teaching experience, who can reflect on their own teaching styles. Participants are interested in curriculum development and in the field of science instruction. Particularly motivated in transforming their classroom and curriculum from a traditional setting into a problem based learning environment that is focused on student centered and student driven activities.
  • Learners (i.e. students)- K-12 students within the NYS education system that will be transitioning from a traditional classroom environment to a problem based learning environment. Science students can range form any age group with varying scientific capabilities. The purpose of this mini course is to serve teachers with a way of creating a problem based learning unit for which they can use in their classroom based on their

individual curriculum and student population.

Instructional Content

This mini course will be broken down into two units. Each unit will consist of two lessons, making it a total of four lessons. Each unit will begin with an overview section describing the purpose and objectives of each lesson. Lessons will consist of readings, videos, reflection activities, and problem based learning planning/guideline instructions. Participants should have their curriculum map or plan along with state standards available to them to allow for easier planning. At the end of each lesson, participants will reflect on their own teaching styles and transition into creating a part of a problem based learning unit. By the end of second unit, each participant will have successfully created a problem based learning unit for their students, as well as gained a deeper understanding of why problem based learning is effective and essential in a 21st century science classroom.

Research Evidence

Originally developed for the teaching of medical students, problem based learning also known as PBL has shown its affects and flourished within the classroom environment as well. PBL serves as a platform for students to experience and work with real world problems in a safe and encouraging environment. "It provides students with an authentic context, problems with multiple solutions, inquiry experiences, real-world application of science knowledge, and collaboration" (Navy, 2019, p. 68). Merritt, Lee, Rillero, and Kinach (2017) investigated the effectiveness of problem based learning in a k-12 setting with a specific concentration in either a math or science classroom. They found that students taught with the PBL framework academically achieved higher than their counterparts who served in the control group, as well as retained the content knowledge better.

Through the use of PBL within a science classroom, studies have shown an "increase in students attitude towards science, their problem-solving skills, and their perceptions of the learning environment" (Ferreira and Trudel, 2012, p. 28). With the adoption of the New York State Next Generation Science Standards, we no longer wish for our students to recite random facts and follow directions. Students are now required to think on a larger scale, and use higher order thinking skills such as analyzing, creating, and evaluating real world data to answer authentic learning problems that we face as a society today.

A simple model that is typically followed when implementing PBL in classrooms according to Drake and Long (2009) goes as followed;

  • "Engagement: The problem is presented to the students and any roles are explained.
  • Inquiry/Investigation: It is determined what information students already know, what information they need to know, and how best to acquire this information.
  • Problem Resolution: Students analyze their options and decide on an action or a decision.
  • Debriefing: Students discuss not only the content they have learned and how it may be useful in new situations but also the processes involved in solving the problem" (2009, p. 5).

Through this mini course participants will investigate the effectiveness of problem based learning in K-12 science classrooms, select a unit in which they wish to transform into a PBL unit, as well as, use the model above to outline and begin creating their PBL units. Not only will participants increase students problem solving skills, analysis skills, and knowledge transfer skills, they will also be aligned with the NYS science standards prepping students for standardized tests and well as introducing the content in a fun and exciting way.

Performance Objectives

At the end of this mini course, participants will have;

  • Developed an insightful understanding and appreciation of the benefits of using a problem based learning unit within their classrooms
  • Evaluated their own teaching styles and reflected on how to incorporate PBL
  • Identified specific standards in which they wish to focus their problem based learning unit on
  • Created an authentic problem to stimulate student's interest in the topic
  • Outlined a PBL unit which is aligned with NYS NGSS

Task Analysis

Mini Course Overarching Problem:How can a problem based learning model within a science classroom increase students higher order thinking skills?

Mini Course Goals:

  • Identify key learning objectives for students
  • Develop an authentic learning problem/question
  • Create student centered learning tasks
  • Design an authentic assessment to evaluate students understanding

KASI Knowledge:

  • NYS NGSS for particular subject area and age range in the classroom
  • How problem based learning units can increase students higher level thinking skills
  • Developing lessons that align with NYS NGSS


  • Chooses to transition classroom structure and environment
  • Willing to change curriculum from a traditional model to a PBL model to benefit students needs


  • Identify lessons that need to be more aligned with NYS NGSS
  • Ability to be an active participant in an online community
  • Ability to analyze case studies, academic journals, and first person accounts of PBL units in their own classrooms
  • Ability to self reflect/evaluate

Interpersonal Skills:

  • Actively reviewing, reflecting, and evaluating on personal teaching experiences

Prerequisites Skills:

Essential prerequisites:

  • 2-3 years of teaching experience
  • Deep understanding of the content knowledge
  • Ability to use a wiki site, navigate through online resources, participant in an online community

Supportive prerequisites:

  • Willingness to change/revise course curriculum
  • Ability to honestly reflect on ones teaching

Curriculum Map


References and Resources

Drake, K. N., & Long, D. (2009). Rebecca’s in the dark: A comparative study of problem-based learning and direct instruction/experiential learning in two 4th-grade classrooms. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(1), 1–16

Maria M. Ferreira, & Anthony R. Trudel. (2012). The Impact of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) on Student Attitudes Toward Science, Problem-Solving Skills, and Sense of Community in the Classroom. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 47(1), 23. Retrieved from https://libproxy.albany.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.43858871&site=eds-live&scope=site

Merritt, J. , Lee, M. , Rillero, P. , & Kinach, B. M. (2017). Problem-Based Learning in K–8 Mathematics and Science Education: A Literature Review. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 11(2).

Navy, S. snavy@kent. ed., Edmondson, E., Maeng, J., Gonczi, A., & Mannarino, A. (2019). How to Create Problem-Based Learning Units: Understanding the PBL Planning Process. Science & Children, 56(5), 68–72. Retrieved from https://libproxy.albany.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=133656881&site=eds-live&scope=site