In the Teacher Librarian magazine (Beyond the Bird Unit, Dec. 2005), Jennifer Robins et al, define three kinds of constructivist lesson planning strategies – Problem based learning, Inquiry based learning and Project based learning. I must admit I have trouble keeping these three straight in my head.
Here it goes, problem based learning, the instructor sets up a problem and guides a small group in finding the answer. This strategy is used in medical schools when students are given case studies for practicing making correct diagnoses of illness. The example in the article is from grade four Language Arts/Science problem based learning assignment “Who is Charlotte?”, as in what kind of spider is Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web?
Inquiry based learning is where a group or student is given an area of interest and a question is developed after some initial exploration. The example given is from a middle school assignment developing a first-person account of a person involved in the civil rights movement.
Project based learning is where a group or students is given a task to complete and the questions and task development come from the need to complete the task. The example given is for a Kindergarten class developing an alphabet book.
The authors suggest that a combined approach can also be beneficial and an example unit based on a grade four “Famous Missourians” is provided. Perhaps the reason I have trouble keeping these straight is because they can overlap easily.
The article provides some theoretical underpinnings for the use of these strategies and explains the need for variety in the classroom setting. Reference to Dewey, Kulthau, Vygotsky and others round of the list of gurus.
Interesting background article. Nothing earth shaking here but it sure doesn’t hurt to get some of the definitions straightened round.