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Using Problem-Based Learning in Teacher Preparation to Address National Content Standards
Unformatted Document Text:  AACTE Proposal Section I: Content A. Statement of the issue While designing courses for prospective teachers, I ask myself a question. What do I want my students to experience during the semester that will inform them about experiences and opportunities that they will design for their future young adolescent students whose individual differences are influenced by such demographics as socio-economic status, home language, and culture? It is my hope that prospective teachers will deepen their understanding, have opportunities to conduct action research, participate fully as group citizens, work independently from my instruction, set goals and make internal deadlines, help refine organizational skills, engage in healthy competition, and believe that their collective efforts make a difference in their preparation (Warner & Leonard, 2004) . Hopefully, this engagement will translate into a lifelong conviction for these pre-service teachers that they are responsible for creating learning environments that engender these outcomes for children. B. Literature review: I believe that meeting the above challenge, to practice what I preach, is most appropriately addressed by using an approach to teaching and learning called problem-based learning (Sage, Krynock, &Robb, 2000; Torpe & Sage, 1998). It is my desire to provide an authentic example of how an emergent problem-based learning teacher preparation course supports middle school theory (McKewin, 1996), inspires the mining of appropriate quality standards-based curriculum and instruction for young adolescents, and provides a context for utilizing middle school organizational practices. With this in mind, I explored problem-based learning (Allen & Duch, 1998; White, 2000) as a means by which prospective middle grades teachers could design interdisciplinary units and gain familiarity with this promising instructional strategy. Ordinarily, interdisciplinary units address a particular theme such as "Culture", "Individuals, Groups, and Institutions," or "Global Connections" (NCSS, 1994) and teachers on middle school teams use their particular content discipline to help students make connections across the curriculum. Even though this is a quantum leap from teaching the disciplines independently, interdisciplinary thematic units are still ill-equipped to handle the assault from students who wonder, "what are we doing this for?" and "why are we learning this?" Today's middle grades students hunger for academic relevancy to their lives (Dickinson & Butler, 2001). While themes such as "Culture" are generative and illicit essential questions, teachers often must stretch to make these curricular connections to the children's own personal concerns and social issues (Beane, 1993). Problem based learning may stand a better chance at fulfilling the middle school promise (Wiles and Bondi, 2001) of addressing the cognitive and affective needs (Glasser, 1986) of the young adolescent because it strikes at the heart of the teachable moment, inspiring learning on a "need to know" basis. C. Contribution: Since students entering schools today differ from those of the past in terms of their technological literacy and educational experiences, educators must discover relevant curriculum that enables constructivist pedagogy and “real world”, technology rich, authentic assessment that address national content standards to impact the learning of all students. Problem-based learning portends to be a model for learning that allows students who share multiple intelligences to excel in interdisciplinary efforts to resolve real world issues. In this educational enterprise, business and community resources can be engaged to extend the classroom into authentic settings in which students can achieve success and appreciate the relevancy of the school as an integral member of the overall learning community. School sites need to be redesigned as learning laboratories for community improvement and need to be outfitted to optimize the potential for this academically ambitious enterprise. This paper not only demonstrates how problem based learning levels the playing field for students who bring individual differences to the classroom, it evidences a successful teacher preparation course designed to engage pre-service teachers in a semester long whole class

Authors: Warner, Mark.
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AACTE Proposal
Section I: Content
A.
Statement of the issue
While designing courses for prospective teachers, I ask myself a question. What do I
want my students to experience during the semester that will inform them about experiences and
opportunities that they will design for their future young adolescent students whose individual
differences are influenced by such demographics as socio-economic status, home language, and
culture? It is my hope that prospective teachers will deepen their understanding, have
opportunities to conduct action research, participate fully as group citizens, work independently
from my instruction, set goals and make internal deadlines, help refine organizational skills,
engage in healthy competition, and believe that their collective efforts make a difference in their
preparation (Warner & Leonard, 2004) . Hopefully, this engagement will translate into a lifelong
conviction for these pre-service teachers that they are responsible for creating learning
environments that engender these outcomes for children.
B. Literature
review:
I believe that meeting the above challenge, to practice what I preach, is most
appropriately addressed by using an approach to teaching and learning called problem-based
learning (Sage, Krynock, &Robb, 2000; Torpe & Sage, 1998). It is my desire to provide an
authentic example of how an emergent problem-based learning teacher preparation course
supports middle school theory (McKewin, 1996), inspires the mining of appropriate quality
standards-based curriculum and instruction for young adolescents, and provides a context for
utilizing middle school organizational practices.
With this in mind, I explored problem-based learning (Allen & Duch, 1998; White, 2000)
as a means by which prospective middle grades teachers could design interdisciplinary units and
gain familiarity with this promising instructional strategy. Ordinarily, interdisciplinary units address
a particular theme such as "Culture", "Individuals, Groups, and Institutions," or "Global
Connections" (NCSS, 1994) and teachers on middle school teams use their particular content
discipline to help students make connections across the curriculum. Even though this is a
quantum leap from teaching the disciplines independently, interdisciplinary thematic units are still
ill-equipped to handle the assault from students who wonder, "what are we doing this for?" and
"why are we learning this?" Today's middle grades students hunger for academic relevancy to
their lives (Dickinson & Butler, 2001). While themes such as "Culture" are generative and illicit
essential questions, teachers often must stretch to make these curricular connections to the
children's own personal concerns and social issues (Beane, 1993). Problem based learning may
stand a better chance at fulfilling the middle school promise (Wiles and Bondi, 2001) of
addressing the cognitive and affective needs (Glasser, 1986) of the young adolescent because it
strikes at the heart of the teachable moment, inspiring learning on a "need to know" basis.
C. Contribution:
Since students entering schools today differ from those of the past in terms of their
technological literacy and educational experiences, educators must discover relevant curriculum
that enables constructivist pedagogy and “real world”, technology rich, authentic assessment that
address national content standards to impact the learning of all students. Problem-based learning
portends to be a model for learning that allows students who share multiple intelligences to excel
in interdisciplinary efforts to resolve real world issues. In this educational enterprise, business and
community resources can be engaged to extend the classroom into authentic settings in which
students can achieve success and appreciate the relevancy of the school as an integral member
of the overall learning community. School sites need to be redesigned as learning laboratories for
community improvement and need to be outfitted to optimize the potential for this academically
ambitious enterprise.
This paper not only demonstrates how problem based learning levels the playing field for
students who bring individual differences to the classroom, it evidences a successful teacher
preparation course designed to engage pre-service teachers in a semester long whole class


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