Getting Started with Problem

Getting Started with
Problem-based Learning
A presentation deck for training educators on the
Project MASH problem-based learning process
90-minute version
Get your creative juices flowing
with a quick activity and conversation
What would you like to improve in your classroom right now?
Write or draw your response and pin it to the front of the
Then, interview your neighbor. What did they have to say?
Why? Take notes; you’ll need these later.
Today’s explorations
Gain an understanding of problem-based
Experience Problem-based Learning first-hand
with “What’s the Problem?” an activity from
Project MASH.
Discuss how you can use this activity (and
other problem-based learning activities) in
your classroom
What is problem-based learning?
Problem-based learning gives students the
opportunity to identify and examine a real problem,
then work together to address the problem by
mobilizing resources and advocating for a cause.
Problem-based learning provides a clear process
(as well as the tools and resources necessary) for
introducing meaningful project-based learning.
The problem-based learning
Problem-based learning is interdisciplinary.
Students find natural connections between subject
areas, similar to real world work experiences.
Problem-based learning builds student agency,
independence, and persistence through a
student-driven process of real world problem
Problem-based learning is civically charged.
By taking on local issues, students have
opportunities to raise their voices, get
involved, and positively impact the larger
Problem-based learning is one of several
teaching strategies that inform the educational
content and experiences available on Project
MASH, a social network for learning.
Project MASH is a social network for educators,
students, and the organizations that serve them.
On Project MASH you’ll find student activities and
projects that rely on problem-based learning—or
citizen science and other unique teaching
strategies. Project MASH also includes
professional development resources and support.
A problem well put is half solved.
The problem-based learning mindset
Today’s goal
To develop a hypothesis for why a problem is occurring in your
classroom, then conduct field studies to prove or disprove it.
To do so, we’ll borrow from a learning activity on Project MASH:
What’s the Problem?
A Problem-based Learning Activity from Project
The Problem: Something isn’t working
in your classroom. What is it?
2 minutes
With your team, revisit the opening
discussion note wall.
Based on that initial brainstorm, identify
one specific problem to focus on.
2 minutes
Write a hypothesis based on your initial
brainstorm. A hypothesis should give a
reason why your specific problem is
happening in one short sentence.
Example hypotheses
 Students would exercise more if we had safe walking trails
in our community. (Problem: Students are inactive.)
 School lunch is “gross” because our school has a small
budget, limiting purchasing choices. (Problem: School
lunch is unappetizing.)
 People only recycle when it’s convenient; providing more
ways to recycle would reduce un-recycled waste.
(Problem: The school community is throwing away
Field studies
40 minutes
Test your hypothesis. Try the following:
 Conduct online research
 Investigate other teachers’ classrooms or
spaces in & out of school
 Interview or survey students regarding your
hypothesis; Interview staff or parents
 Others? You decide!
Project Share
TIME 5 minutes
In teams, give an overview of:
 Your problem & hypothesis
 Your field studies: What did you collect?
 Did you prove or disprove your hypothesis?
 What next steps might be involved? What
could you (or your students) do with this?
Reflection & Discussion
TIME 30 minutes
 How else might you use the "What's the
Problem" activity?
 What skills and content did you cover today? If
adapted to your subject area, what skills or
content could you cover using this approach?
 What role does technology play? How is this
role distinct from the simple notion of
“technology integration”?
Common Core Connections
10 minutes
Consider how the What’s the Problem activity
connects to the Common Core State Standards
for skills or knowledge acquisition.
 List one standard and describe how
today’s activity met a targeted skill.
 How did today’s activity meet the content
goals for one standard?
Want more?
Visit Project MASH for tool kits and resources that
align to problem-based learning and these other
teaching strategies, including design thinking,
citizen science, making & tinkering, and more.
On Project MASH you’ll also discover activities and projects
that incorporate problem-based learning and other unique
approaches to teaching and learning.
What’s the Problem?
Ask: The Art of
Convince Me!

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