Using Problem-Based Learning to Create One-Pot Lessons: Part 2

Using Problem-Based Learning to Create One-Pot Lessons: Part 2

In last week’s article, I suggested a new resource for trying out problem-based learning, the PBL Clearinghouse at the University of Delaware. In this follow-up article, I will describe some of the lessons from that resource and how they could be used in ABE classrooms.

NOTE: You can learn even more by joining the new Content Standards Integration (CSI) CohortApplications are due THIS Friday, December 6!

Dawn’s Eight O’Clock

One of the lessons that I looked at is called “Dawn’s Eight O’Clock.” It is a lesson about how to work successfully in a group in order to complete a project or reach a goal. The scenario focuses on some college students who are working together in a class and will earn a group grade. One of the students, a woman named Dawn, is frequently late to class or misses class, and other students in her group want to kick her out so that she doesn’t pull them all down.

This lesson includes a brief video vignette that shows the students in Dawn’s group discussing the problem and what they think they should do. The video, which is part of a collection of videos called Groups in Action, could be used to discuss setting group norms and expectations, and why it’s important to be reliable when your group is counting on you. There are actually 10 additional videos in the collection, and they all deal with different issues that can arise when students do group projects. “Dawn’s Eight O’Clock” would be a great introductory lesson for any teacher who is going to try group projects, or it could be used as part of a lesson on professional expectations or the culture of school.

Roots: Exploring Our Distant Ancestry

Another lesson that I liked is called “Roots: Exploring Our Distant Ancestry.” It aligns to the biological sciences, and I think it could be a great project for a diploma student to work on. I like this lesson because its purpose is to get learners to craft a logical argument in order to defend a hypothesis. Learners are tasked with explaining their position on the theory of evolution. There are eight stated learning objectives for the lesson, and the first six could apply to students learning about almost any issue. The learning objectives are:

  1. To examine personal understanding and beliefs about evolution.
  2. To practice constructing logical written and oral arguments based on evidence.
  3. To find relevant resources in the library and on the Internet.
  4. To initiate group activities with a positive experience.
  5. To establish expectations for in-depth learning and understanding.
  6. To reflect on and learn about at least one aspect of human evolution.

The handouts that accompany the lesson would undoubtedly need to be tweaked to use them with ABE learners, but I think the lesson on the whole could provide inspiration for creating a similar lesson that explores differing views on climate change, endangered species, or even a non-science topic.

Health / Medical Lessons

There are a lot of lessons that connect to health and medical issues in the clearinghouse, and many of them could be adapted for use with even high-beginning ELLs. I looked at “The Complaining Postal Carrier” and “Doc, Is It My Heart?” Both lessons provide a scenario about a person with a medical issue. As written, the lessons in the clearinghouse – which were designed for students who might be studying anatomy or specific body systems – often provide some very technical details about the person’s condition. However, I think a creative teacher could put together a similar scenario and just use more general health vocabulary, like that which is found in most ELL textbooks.

The idea is to give students a scenario to read that presents some sort of health problem. Then students work in groups to brainstorm and evaluate possible solutions. Each group’s solutions are then shared with the class, and students have an opportunity to choose which solution is best and why. To help guide this process, teachers can provide questions about the scenario and resources that would help students to better understand the problem and possible treatments. One additional thing that I like about these two lessons is that they contain self-assessment tools that students can use to reflect on how well the group did completing the tasks, and what ACES-type skills the learner practiced while working in the group.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and Tax Cuts

The final lesson that I want to highlight is called “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and Tax Cuts.” It’s an Economics lesson, and it was the shortest lesson that I looked at. The lesson is very simple. Students are provided with two excerpts from news articles and given discussion questions. It was the discussion questions that really drew my attention. The students are asked whether or not they agree with a statement or position taken by someone in the text. Then they discuss the following:

  • What is your preliminary answer?
  • What information did you use to formulate this answer?
  • What additional information do you need to support your answer?

If we asked our students questions like these on a regular basis, imagine the skills they would be developing!

Ready to Learn More?

Learn more about crafting lessons that include all three sets of essential skills – our MN ABE Content Standards – by joining the Content Standards Integration (CSI) Cohort that will launch in January 2020. Applications are due THIS Friday, December 6. More information can be found on the ATLAS website under Key Activities.

Stephanie Sommers, ACES Coordinator ATLAS