Over the weekend, someone sent me the following email asking for last minute help:

I thank you for putting your problem based guidelines on the web. I am a teaching student and I must try to pull together a pbl lesson plan by saturday. I will be using the topic of the lack of parental involvement in middle schools. we have to start at the problem, go through the research, using technology and media to present our position and come up with real life possible solutions. I am going to try to use your guidelines to make this happen. I am scared to death. Do you have any pointers to help make this happen in only two days?

I’m guessing this person was referring to my posts on Problem-based Learning. Although I was on the road when the request came in, I took a moment on waking up on Saturday morning to write down the following…it came pretty quickly since I can almost do this in my sleep:

Saturday? That’s today…less than 24 hours. I wish you all the best!8-> 

Seriously, this may be helpful to you: 

When creating your problem, follow these steps:
1) Map out your problem…these are questions about the problem you want to see students answered. 

2) Connect curriculum to your map. What curriculum standards/objectives do you want to connect to specific questions. Questions that don’t lead to curriculum objectives can be identified as areas to cut out. This is called “Curriculum Map” 

3) Craft a problem narrative that introduces students to the issues that will lead to curriculum objectives. This is called “Meet the Problem” or problem engagement: 

4) Now that you have this done, follow the Problem Flow with your students (the first column, Strategies and Tools). It looks like this: 

a) Give students the narrative or project it on the wall. Have them read it together. 

b) In order to help the person/people in this problem, based on our reading of the problem, what do we KNOW for certain? These are “in the text” questions that help us list the facts…save guesses or hunches for the next step. You could use a KWHL chart for this, too.
–What do we know based on our reading of the problem? (K)
–What do we want to know about this? (W)
–How are we going to find this out (H)
–And, after the activity has moved on, what have we learned about this problem? 

c) Ask them, “What hunches do you have about this problem? What guesses do you have?” Write those down on the board or type them up in a column called “Hunches” 

d) What do we need to know about this problem that we don’t know? Use your map of possibilities to help guide YOUR understanding (as teacher). List all the questions.
Prioritize these questions as most important to least important. 

e) Now students, who are the stakeholders in this group, the people to whom this matters? Obviously, there’s the person suffering the problem. But there are also others. Tease out of the discussion who these stakeholders are and write them up on the board/chart. 

f) Ask students to help you sort questions–need to know–into the different stakeholder groups. “Ok, now we’re going to divide up into these stakeholder groups so we can develop a solution from a stakeholder’s particular perspective.”
Finally, before turning the groups loose to do the research on their solution to the problem from a stakeholder’s perspective, you need to help them understand HOW to do the research. What are some ways we can find out the information we need to solve the problem? 

This is where the 2nd column of the Problem Flow document comes in handy, allowing you to use an information problem-solving approach like the Big6 for Middle to adult students, or the Super 3 (Plan, Do, Review) for K-5 students. 

This is just a quick overview of the process but short of actually speaking to you and guiding you on the phone, it’s the best I can offer via email! I hope you’ll take advantage of the Problem Flow as a “planning document” to guide you, as facilitator of problem-based learning, through the process. 

I encourage you to read 5 Steps to PBL-Enhanced Professional Development to provide more background for you:

How would you have responded?

The response that came back was fun to read:

OMG. This was awesome. I will let you know how I did on the project and how your email helped me.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure