Scholarly article on topic 'Application of Problem-based Learning Strategy in Science Lessons – Examples of Good Practice'

Application of Problem-based Learning Strategy in Science Lessons – Examples of Good Practice Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"Problem-based Learning" / "scientific investigation" / "teaching strategy" / "cognitive skills" / "instrumental and transversal skills" / "PROFILES project."}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Luminiţa Mihaela Drăghicescu, Ana-Maria Petrescu, Gabriela Cătălina Cristea, Laura Monica Gorghiu, Gabriel Gorghiu

Abstract It is widely accepted that in the context of Knowledge-based Society, the educational institutions must demonstrate their ideologically and pragmatic point of views, when discussing the role of the promoters of educational changes. The changes require - among other aspects of pedagogical and psycho-social issues - a reconsideration of what constitutes the effective teaching strategy, adapted to the needs of the learners. Thus, within the Science classes (Chemistry, Physics and Biology), the teaching approach cannot remain an expositional one, based only on the transmission and reception of information. A student-centred educational process, aiming to the development of key-skills, necessarily involves a pro-active approach that facilitates students’ involvement in research, scientific investigation, analysis of problematic situations or solving real problems or merely hypothetical ones. Through its specificity, the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) strategy may be a central component of such teaching approaches. The purpose of the article is to highlight the effectiveness of PBL, through presenting some of the best educational practices implemented by the Romanian Science teachers who participated in the “PROFILES - Education through Science” Continuous Professional Development Programme. The investigative approach is a qualitative one, focused on the analysis of the teaching practices based on PBL implementation, but also on the analysis of students’ and teachers’ opinions who used this strategy in Science lessons. The hypothesis that was stated as a premise of the research took into consideration the fact that when using the PBL teaching strategy during the Science lessons, the students will acquire not only cognitive skills but also a series of instrumental and transversal ones.

Academic research paper on topic "Application of Problem-based Learning Strategy in Science Lessons – Examples of Good Practice"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 149 (2014) 297 - 301

LUMEN 2014

Application of Problem-Based Learning Strategy in Science lessons

- Examples of Good Practice

Lumini^a Mihaela Dräghicescua*, Ana-Maria Petrescua, Gabriela Cätälina Cristeab, Laura

Monica Gorghiuc, Gabriel Gorghiud

aTeacher Training Department, Valahia University Targoviste, 5 Moldovei str., 130093 Targoviste, Romania

bTeacher Training Department, Spiru Haret University, 13 Ion Ghica str., 030045, Bucharest, Romania cFaculty of Sciences and Arts, Valahia University Targoviste, 18-24 Unirii Blvd., 130082 Targoviste, Romania dFaculty of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Information Technology, Valahia University Targoviste, 18-24 Unirii Blvd., 130082

Targoviste, Romania

Abstract

It is widely accepted that in the context of Knowledge-based Society, the educational institutions must demonstrate their ideologically and pragmatic point of views, when discussing the role of the promoters of educational changes. The changes require - among other aspects of pedagogical and psycho-social issues - a reconsideration of what constitutes the effective teaching strategy, adapted to the needs of the learners.

Thus, within the Science classes (Chemistry, Physics and Biology), the teaching approach cannot remain an expositional one, based only on the transmission and reception of information. A student-centred educational process, aiming to the development of key-skills, necessarily involves a pro-active approach that facilitates students' involvement in research, scientific investigation, analysis of problematic situations or solving real problems or merely hypothetical ones. Through its specificity, the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) strategy may be a central component of such teaching approaches.

The purpose of the article is to highlight the effectiveness of PBL, through presenting some of the best educational practices implemented by the Romanian Science teachers who participated in the "PROFILES - Education through Science " Continuous Professional Development Programme.

The investigative approach is a qualitative one, focused on the analysis of the teaching practices based on PBL implementation, but also on the analysis of students' and teachers' opinions who used this strategy in Science lessons. The hypothesis that was stated as a premise of the research took into consideration the fact that when using the PBL teaching strategy during the Science lessons, the students will acquire not only cognitive skills but also a series of instrumental and transversal ones.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +40-245-220694; fax: +40-245-220694. E-mail address: lumidraghicescu@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LUMEN 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.08.245

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LUMEN 2014.

Keywords: Problem-based Learning; scientific investigation; teaching strategy; cognitive skills; instrumental and transversal skills; PROFILES project.

1. Context

Building a school on the students' „size" represents a provocation for all those who assume in a real manner the teacher mission and who have found their vocation in this profession. This implies a pragmatic orientation of curriculum, a fastening to the problems of the contemporary society, a change of educational practices and a flexible pedagogic conception, dissociated from the canons of the traditional pedagogy, conservative and anachronic.

Building a school on the students' „size" means to centre the educational process on competencies, to endow students with a series of life abilities, which will help them during their insertion in the socio-professional environment. For that matter, the contemporary school mission resides exactly in the formation of key competences, usable in a variety of concrete situations.

The competency of learning how to learn, one of the key competencies for the 21st century, subsumes also the capacity of problems solving. The valorising of PBL in instructional context allows, as we will demonstrate in the present study, the development of this capacity and, implicitly, of the competency of learning how to learn.

Before describing this strategy and inventorying its formative valences, we consider useful the analysis of the basic competencies in Mathematics, Sciences and Technology, referring especially to competencies in Sciences, targeted also in our investigative demarche.

In the report regarding education, made by the Academic Society from Romania (SAR), in March 2010, the authors define competencies in Sciences as the ability of using a methodological and knowledge corpus, implicated in the explaining of natural world, in order to identify questions and to pull conclusions based on empiric evidences.

For Science and Technology, the essential knowledge includes the basic principles of the natural world; fundamental scientific concepts; principles and methods; technology, technological products and processes; comprehension of the science and technology impact upon the natural world. These competencies, as enunciated in the mentioned report, must help individuals understand better the progresses, limitations and risks of the scientific theories, applications and technology in society (in relation with: the process of decisions taking, values, aspects of moral order, culture etc.).

The abilities include the capacity to manipulate instruments and to use scientific data in order to reach an objective or a conclusion /to make a decision based on empiric evidences. The persons should be able to recognize the essential features of the scientific investigation and to have the ability to communicate the conclusions and the reasoning that led to them (SAR Raport Educate, 2010).

Benefiting of a clear description of knowledge and abilities circumscribed to the competency in Science, we wonder: To what extent our students are in their possession? To what extent Science is for them an area sufficiently attractive to deepen to a higher level through the university studies? The answer to these questions can be found in a document of the European Union Council. Thus, in The Council Conclusions regarding the improvement of the basic competencies level in the context of European cooperation for the 21st century schools (2010), are specified the following:

• The innovative pedagogic methods and the well-prepared teachers may improve the students' ability towards MST (Mathematics, Sciences and Technologies) and the achievements in this field; moreover, this thing may lead to the situation in which more students continue their studies in these fields at superior levels and, eventually, in increases the number of graduates in MST;

• Following the European Commission Report from 2007 (Science Education Now: A Renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe, 2007), it is recommended the more extended utilization of an education based on research in Sciences, eliminating isolation of Science teachers through networking, the paying of a special attention to the girls' attitude towards Mathematics, Sciences and Technologies and opening of schools towards a wider community;

• Acquiring basic competencies - the fundament of key-competencies development for lifelong learning - will have an essential role in improving the professional insertion capacity, the social inclusion and the personal fulfilment. Consequently, measures must be taken in order to control the poor learning results and the social exclusion;

• A good level of reading competencies and arithmetic knowledge, next to a solid understanding of the basic principles of the natural world and of the fundamental scientific concepts, ensure the basis for acquiring fundamental competencies for lifelong learning and, subsequently, they must be approached from an early age;

• In approaching the complex problematic referring to the improvement of the reading competencies and the knowledge in MST attention must be granted to the following aspects:

1. Curriculum design. This could target: the acquiring from an early age of the basic competencies; the holistic approach of education, a fact which assumes the development of each child's abilities; the use of new evaluative methods and their effect upon the school syllabus; the utilization of innovative pedagogic approaches as inquiry-based science education (IBSE) and problem-based learning (PBL), in Mathematics and Sciences; continuous attention towards reading during all the obligatory school levels, and not only in the phases before and during primary school, and more personalized approaches of teaching and learning.

2. Motivation for reading competencies and MST knowledge. The existence of a culture of home lecture (books, newspapers, books for children) and reading in school, the activities of early alphabetization, before the beginning of school, the parents' readings and attitudes, the students' interests, the self-efficaciousness and involving in lecture activities both inside and outside school proved that they have a crucial impact on the improvement of reading level. The methods of study should better exploit children's natural curiosity towards Mathematics and Sciences from an early age. It is important to help children become autonomous and motivated lecturers, for whom lecture, Mathematics skills and Science competencies will become an integrant part of everyday life.

3. The impact of the new technologies on the basic competencies and their utilization in supporting those who study to become and remain motivated. The extended use of Internet and mobile technologies changed the nature and perception of alphabetization in the 21st century. The influence of the new technologies on children's lectures and on their competencies in Mathematics and Sciences fields should be analysed, in order to ensure appropriate methods of exploiting the potential of these technologies for new forms of study.

2. PBL Model

The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) (Duch et al., 2001), consists on valorising the problems of the "real world" in the educational process, in order to facilitate the development of critical thinking and of students' solving abilities, and the assimilation of the fundamental concepts for the different study disciplines.

Using PBL in the instruction demarche, the teacher assumes the role of coach for his students, orienting them in the research activity, stimulating their interest for an authentic and relevant learning.

The PBL model, proposed by the Academy of Sciences and Mathematics from Illinois, involves the following stages and sub-stages:

1. Understanding of problem

a. Confrontation with the problem - an unstructured or poorly structured problem is provided to students (or they propose it), which inspire their curiosity, interest and generate their need to know more;

b. Identification of detained knowledge which might be necessary for the problem approach (I know/I must know) -the group of students complete lists structured thus: what we know, what we must know, what we have to do;

c. Definition of the situation-problem - students list the activities/tasks that must be effectuated and the factors which ensure their finalization with success.

2. Curriculum exploring

a. Collection of information/documentation - students plan the way in which they will obtain/collect the necessary information, valorising multiple and various resources;

b. Information exchange - students share/disseminate information they gathered in their group and it is discussed their relevance for the investigated problem;

c. Generation of possible solutions - students synthesize the obtained information in order to generate more possible solutions.

3. Problem solving

a. Determination of the best/most adequate solution - students prepare a graphic organizer in order to find an adequate solution for their problem;

b. Presentation of solution - students present the solution in order to obtain the feedback of those interested in this problem (stakeholder);

c. Reporting - students present the results obtained by their group and complete learning by following the other colleagues' presentations; the students' report the results of the problem investigation, underlining the learned contents and competencies.

3. Applicative aspects

Further on it is presented an eloquent model for implementing the PBL strategy, in a class of Physics (IXth grade), with the theme: Optical phenomena - How do we manage to see the objects around us? (teacher: Gabriela Dinu) (Dinu et al., 2012).

Table 1. Applying the PBL model within a class of Physics

- The organization of a learning situation centred upon the presentation of a problem from everyday life - How do we

manage to see the objects around us?;

- The initiation of a dialogue with students, having as landmarks questions like: "Why the objects that surround us are colored? Why some of them are luminous, and others dark? Why an object that we see in daylight cannot also be seen during the night, in the dark? ";

- The inventorying of anchor knowledge about: light refraction and reflection, formation of images on retina, formation of images in mirrors and lenses;

- Definition of problem-situation - students, guided by their teacher, formulate the problem, make a list of the activities/tasks which must be accomplished and of the factors that ensures their successful achieving.

- The collection of new information referring to: light refraction and reflection, formation of images on retina, formation of images in mirrors and lenses;

- Exchange of information - students share/disseminate information they collected in their group and discuss their relevance for the investigated problem;

- Generation of possible solutions - students synthesize the obtained information in order to generate more possible solutions, under the form of portfolio and projects.

- Identifying of the best solution - students organize the results obtained by their group and select the optimal solution;

- Presentation of solution - students present the identified solution to the interested persons (stakeholder), being capable to explain the natural optical phenomena, met in everyday life;

- Reporting - students report the results of the problem investigation, they complete their learning by following the other colleagues' presentations, underlying the assimilated/formed contents and competencies; students will receive confirmation for the assimilated and experimentally verified knowledge, regarding the principles that govern the optical phenomena, the scientific foundation of natural „special" phenomena (mirage, rainbow etc.), and the validation of formed/developed competencies.

1. Problem comprehension

2. Curriculum exploring

3. Problem solving

Following the implementation of the didactic strategy of PBL type, students developed a series of functional competencies, abilities of processing, systematizing, restructuring and practical utilization of knowledge, negotiation competencies, reflective capacity, meta-cognitive and investigative competencies. Moreover, following the focus-group type discussions, students declared that approaching issues cut from real life, in collaboration with the colleagues and their teacher, they had the chance to discover and to develop emotional competencies, the argumentative, decisional capacities, the inter-evaluation and self-evaluation capacities, creativity and even motivation for learning.

4. Conclusions

In conclusion, especially in teaching Sciences, there must be eliminated the pedagogic practices centred on formalized and excessively generalized presentations and promoted the teaching-learning strategies axed on action, experimentation, scientific investigation and problems solving. Promoting these strategies, and especially Problem-Based Learning, we will help students to develop their cognitive, instrumental and transversal competencies, which will allow them to extend learning at lifelong scale.

Acknowledgements

This work was funded through the Seventh Framework Programme "PROFILES - Professional Reflection Oriented Focus on Inquiry-based Learning and Education through Science " No. 5.2.2.1 - SiS-2010-2.2.1, Grant Agreement No. 266589, under the frame of: Supporting and coordinating actions on innovative methods in Science education: teacher training on inquiry based teaching methods on a large scale in Europe. The support offered by the European Commission in the fields of research and innovation, through the project mentioned above, is gratefully acknowledged.

The authors thank Mrs. Gabriela Dinu for her willingness to be mentioned in this paper regarding content and the development of the PROFILES Module, based on IBSE and PBL strategies.

References

Dinu, G., Tänase, O., Simionescu, N., Gorghiu, G. (2012). The PROFILES Model - A Trans-disciplinary Integrated Approach Centred on Relevant Aspects of Daily Life. In: Claus Bolte, Jack Holbrook, & Franz Rauch (eds.), Inquiry-based Science Education in Europe: Reflections from the PROFILES Project, Alpen-Adria Universität, Klagenfurt, Austria, pp. 139-141. Dinu, G. (2012). PROFILES Module - Optical phenomena - How do we manage to see the objects around us?,

http://profiles.ssai.valahia.ro/pg/expages/read/matrice1 Duch, B. J., Groh, S. E., Allen, D. E. (2001). "Why Problem-Based Learning? A case study of institutional change in undergraduate education". In Duch, B. J., Groh, S. E., Allen, D. E. (Eds.) The Power of Problem-Based Learning -(pp. 3-13). Stylus Publishing, 2001, Sterling, Virginia, USA.

*** High Level Group on Science Education, European Commission. Science, Economy and Society. (2007). Science Education Now: A Renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe (Stadiul educafiei in domeniul §tiin£elor: o pedagogie reinnoitä pentru viitorul Europei). Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. 2007, 29, 18-19. *** PROFILES Project in Romania, Retrieved from: http://profiles.ssai.valahia.ro/

*** Romanian Academic Society (SAR), Raport Educate 2010: Ie^irea §colii din mediocritate. Cum definim competence cheie §i riscurile modificäriiprogramei gcolare. Retrieved from: http://www.sar.org.ro/files/439_Raport%20competente%20cheie%20-%20sar.pdf, 4-5.