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AQCP Problem-Based Learning

The PBL Classroom Environment:
Unlike the traditional classroom environment, a PBL investigation is primarily student-centered. It is essential that the learners identify their own learning issues within the context of the problem to be solved. Therefore, there is no necessity for teachers to spend a lot of time "teaching" what the learners already know; the students identify what they need to know and learn more about to solve the problem, based upon the foundation of what they already understand. Because the students work in small teams, it is quite likely that the different learning needs of each individual will coalesce within the group to encompass the teacher's intended learning outcomes.

This does not mean that the learning is undirected; the teacher has designed the PBL problem scenarios to focus on intended content areas, standards, or skills. In addition, throughout the PBL process, the teacher acts as a facilitator to assist and guide the student groups in identifying and researching the concepts. There is no one "right" answer to a PBL case study, but there are lots of "right" questions!

In a PBL classroom, the teacher is not the focus of attention or the sole authority over the content. This helps to relieve the teacher of the pressure to know all and understand all about the science topics under consideration. By guiding the investigative teams through their research, the teacher learns along with the students and shares their joy of discovery.

Group collaboration is an essential skill in PBL classrooms. Teachers act as coaches to assist their students in learning how to function as effective groups. These abilities are dependent upon both the ages of the students and their familiarity and practice working in this context. Therefore, it may take some time and multiple opportunities to fully realize the potential of PBL investigations.

Ultimately, students must be held accountable for their own learning. Authentic performance assessments are a critical component of a PBL classroom. Teachers design and provide clear performance outcomes to measure student progress, including the use of rubrics for both concepts and for group collaborative skills.

More complete descriptions of the PBL process can be found in the published books listed in the Bibliography.




Northern Arizona University Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals

EEOP Staff
Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP)
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
PO Box 5768
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5768
Phone: (928) 523-1275
Fax: (928) 523-1280
E-mail: eeop@nau.edu

Last updated: May 26, 2005