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Abstract

Project-based learning (PBL) is a promising teaching method for integrated science education that has gained momentum in educational research and curriculum reforms, especially as a method to enhance 21st century skills and connected worldview. How teachers implement PBL greatly affects students’ content understanding and development of skills. The purpose of this qualitative study is to highlight active teachers’ PBL practices and their perceptions of the advantages and challenges of implementing PBL to better promote the implementation of PBL in teacher education programs and in integrated science education. This study consisted of two parts: (1) a qualitative-led survey and (2) a case study. First, the data for the survey was collected from January to March 2017 through an online reporting form of an international StarT programme. This programme supports the implementation of interdisciplinary and collaborative PBL in science, mathematics and technology education. 244 teachers from early childhood education to upper secondary school participated from 28 countries. Second, 12 PBL units reported by the teachers were chosen for a case study. The teachers exploited PBL practices that were theme- and inquiry-based, collaborative and engaging to students. However, closer inspection revealed variation and defects in the practices particularly in relation to assessment, using reflection and student-centred approach. In addition, teachers reported several challenges relating to the implementation of PBL. The results indicate that teachers see PBL as beneficial but need support with the implementation. Science teachers’ pedagogical competence in PBL could be promoted through collaborative learning in which students, teachers and other participants are learning from each other.
Research Article LUMAT General Issue 2021
LUMAT: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education
Published by the University of Helsinki, Finland / LUMA Centre Finland | CC BY 4.0
Project-based learning in integrated science education:
Active teachers’ perceptions and practices
Outi Haatainen and Maija Aksela
The Unit of Chemistry Teacher Education, Department of Chemistry,
Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, Finland
Project-based learning (PBL) is a promising teaching method for integrated science
education that has gained momentum in educational research and curriculum
reforms, especially as a method to enhance 21st century skills and connected
worldview. How teachers implement PBL greatly affects students’ content
understanding and development of skills. The purpose of this qualitative study is to
highlight active teachers’ PBL practices and their perceptions of the advantages and
challenges of implementing PBL to better promote the implementation of PBL in
teacher education programs and in integrated science education. This study
consisted of two parts: (1) a qualitative-led survey and (2) a case study. First, the
data for the survey was collected from January to March 2017 through an online
reporting form of an international StarT programme. This programme supports the
implementation of interdisciplinary and collaborative PBL in science, mathematics
and technology education. 244 teachers from early childhood education to upper
secondary school participated from 28 countries. Second, 12 PBL units reported by
the teachers were chosen for a case study. The teachers exploited PBL practices
that were theme- and inquiry-based, collaborative and engaging to students.
However, closer inspection revealed variation and defects in the practices
particularly in relation to assessment, using reflection and student-centred
approach. In addition, teachers reported several challenges relating to the
implementation of PBL. The results indicate that teachers see PBL as beneficial but
need support with the implementation. Science teachers’ pedagogical competence
in PBL could be promoted through collaborative learning in which students,
teachers and other participants are learning from each other.
Keywords: project-based learning, science education, teachers’ practices, STEAM
1 Introduction
Project-based learning (PBL) has a lot of potential to enhance 21st century skills and
engage students in real-world tasks (e.g. Bell, 2010; Han et al., 2015; Kingston, 2018).
It promotes interconnected worldview, links among disciplines and presents an
expanded view of subject matter (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Kingston, 2018). Therefore,
PBL is a promising teaching method for integrated science education that can be
defined as an effort to organize or integrate science curriculum content into a
meaningful whole by a constructive and context-based approach that crosses subject
boundaries and links learning to real world (Åström, 2008; Beane, 1997; Czerniak &
Johnson, 2014). Integrated science education has traditionally meant integration with
ARTICLE DETAILS
LUMAT General Issue
Vol 9 No 1 (2021), 149–173
Received 17 August 2020
Accepted 1 March 2021
Published 29 March 2021
Pages: 25
References: 31
Correspondence:
outi.haatainen@helsinki.fi
https://doi.org/10.31129/
LUMAT.9.1.1392
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150
mathematics, and/or technology, such as STS (sciencetechnologysociety) or STEM
(sciencetechnologyengineeringmathematics) education (Bennett et al., 2007;
Czerniak & Johnson, 2014). In recent years, there has been an increase in discussion
of a wider approach to integrated science curriculum by including other discipline
areas, for example, a move to STEAM education by including the Arts to STEM
(Lyons, 2020).
The successful implementation of PBL in a classroom is dependent on teacher’s
ability to effectively motivate and guide students’ learning (Kokotsaki et al., 2016) as
well as on teacher’s understanding of the criteria for effective PBL (Han et al., 2015).
In relations to integrated science education, there exists evidence that when PBL is
implemented and instructed properly by teachers, students learning increases,
whereas teachers who ineffectively implement PBL have a negative effect on students’
learning (Han et al., 2015; Kingston, 2018). However, the lack of a uniform vision of
PBL complicates efforts to determine the fidelity of a PBL unit and to evaluate its
effects (Condliffe et al., 2017; Hasni et al., 2016). This imposes a concern as many
current national curricula (Finnish National Agency for Education [EDUFI], 2016;
National Research Council, 2013) are urging teachers to implement more integrated
and inquiry-based approaches, such as PBL (Hasni et al., 2016). How are science
teachers supposed to assess the quality of their implementation or to know how to
improve their practices, if there is no consensus on what a PBL approach in integrated
science education should look like?
The purpose of this study is to describe teachers’ perceptions and practices of PBL
to understand how it can be implemented with fidelity as an integrated approach to
science education. The teachers participating in this study are considered active and
motivated to develop their teaching as they have voluntarily taken part in the
international StarT programme (LUMA Centre Finland, n.d.), which supports the
implementation of interdisciplinary and collaborative PBL in science, mathematics
and technology education.
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2 Theoretical background
2.1 Project-based learning
Project-based learning (PBL) is a student-driven, teacher-facilitated pedagogical
approach that organizes learning around clearly defined projects (Han et al., 2015;
Kokotsaki et al., 2016; Thomas, 2000). PBL has roots in constructivist theories of
learning: learning is context-specific, learners actively construct their understanding
by engaging in meaningful real-world issues, and they achieve their goals through
social interactions and sharing of knowledge and understanding (Kokotsaki et al.,
2016; Krajcik & Shin, 2014; Savery, 2019).
Similar instructional strategies exist such as problembased learning, inquiry-
based learning and Learning by Design(Savery, 2019), and there is some debate in
the literature, especially about the distinction between project- and problem-based
learning. Scholars acknowledge that the two concepts have different histories
(Condliffe et al., 2017), but have argued for seeing problem-based learning as a type
of project-based learning (Boss & Larmer, 2018; Thomas, 2000). On the contrary,
Savery (2019) argued that it is important to clarify the differences between the two
concepts since, unlike problem-based learning, project-based learning requires
constructing a concrete artefact as an answer to the driving problem or a question.
Many attempts have been made to clarify the PBL design principles that describe
the essential components of a PBL approach. There exist a wide agreement that PBL
is a process of learning; including activities and inquiry that results in artefacts or final
products that address the driving question or a problem set at the beginning
(Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Boss & Larmer, 2018; Condliffe et al., 2017; Thomas, 2000).
However, there is still no consensus on what constitutes PBL (Condliffe et al., 2017).
For example, PBL can be emphasized as interdisciplinary (e.g. Han et al., 2015) or
according to others (e.g. Savery, 2019) projects may also be disciplinary specific.
Furthermore, it is unclear whether PBL design principles should address the content
of learning, to what extent students’ choice or collaboration needs to be included in
PBL approach or how learning should be assessed (Condliffe et al., 2017). In Table 1
is a synthesis on design principles adapted from three reviews (Condliffe et al., 2017;
Kokotsaki et al., 2016; Savery, 2019) discussing the issue and with recommendations
for the essential elements to be considered when designing and implementing PBL.
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Table 1. The project-based learning (PBL) design principles adapted from Condliffe et al. (2017), Kokotsaki
et al. (2016) and Savery (2019).
Element
Description
Student
learning
goals
The content of a PBL curriculum or study unit that ensures the successful implementation
of PBL as a part of science teaching. The project should be focused on teaching students (1)
key concepts and understanding derived from national curriculum or standards, and (2)
subject matter content as well as 21st century skills (e.g. critical thinking, problem solving,
collaboration and self-management).
Centrality of
the project
This feature distinguishes PBL from other instructional approaches: project is not the
culmination of learning as it often is in standard classrooms, but instead in PBL approach
the project is seen as a process through which learning takes place.
Context
Projects should be authentic, meaningful, related to a real-world context or an important
issue, and be connected to students’ own concerns and interests. Furthermore, projects
require a well-designed and open-ended driving question or a problem, at the appropriate
level of challenge for students, that serves to organize all the project activities.
Project
artefact
Project activities should involve the creation of a final tangible product that addresses the
driving question and offers representation of students learning.
Collaboration
PBL requires social negotiation of knowledge, working collaboratively in groups, to develop
possible solutions to the project. Collaboration should be a feature of all project stages.
Construction
of
knowledge
PBL involves students in a process of constructing knowledge. This can be achieved
through in-depth inquiry, critical thinking, the use of problem-solving, and by revision of
what is currently known and what needs to be understood before proceeding.
Student
engagement
Teachers should foster student engagement from the beginning of the project to the end.
Students’ freedom to generate project artefacts and their active participation is vital for
the construction of knowledge. Although encouraging student choice align with student-
centred approaches, it is not explicitly clear what the extent of student autonomy should
be in a PBL unit.
Scaffolding
instruction
Scaffolding instruction refers to any method or a resource (e.g. teachers, peers, learning
materials and technologies) used by teachers to help learners to accomplish more difficult
tasks than they otherwise are capable of completing on their own. Two key elements of
scaffolding: (1) scaffolds need to be tailored to a student’s current level of understanding
and (
2) scaffolds should be faded over time as students learn to apply their new knowledge
or skills on their own.
Assessment
Emphasis should be on formative assessment that aims at supporting students learning.
This includes reflection, self and peer evaluation, and teachers’ feedback throughout the
project process. Assessment should include a specific end-of-project phase that ensures
reflection on what was learned as well as the creation of a project artefact.
Publicity
A public presentation of the project supports students’ communication skills, can motivate
students, and presents an opportunity for feedback. Instead of a presentation, the product
itself can be public. This element includes the PBL criterion of authenticity.
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2.2. PBL in integrated science education
PBL has a lot of potential to enhance 21st century skills and engage students in real-
world tasks (Bell, 2010; Han et al., 2015; Kingston, 2018). The 21st century skills or
transversal competences (EDUFI, 2016) are common denominators for various skills
necessary for success in daily life, such as critical thinking, problem-solving,
collaboration, communication, and self-management skills (EDUFI, 2016; Viro &
Joutsenlahti, 2020). Of these skills, for example, problem-solving is closely linked to
mathematics and inquiry is an essential part of science education. However, skills
alone are not enough as objectives of a PBL unit in integrated science education;
students need to develop their knowledge and understanding of the key concepts of
science, mathematics and other integrated subjects (Viro & Joutsenlahti, 2020).
Research evidence indicates that PBL can promote student learning in acquiring
deeper content knowledge and skills in science and mathematics (Condliffe et al.,
2017; Kingston, 2018; Viro & Joutsenlahti, 2020). In addition, some studies have
reported increased attendance, self-reliance, and improved attitudes towards learning
on the part of students (Kingston, 2018; Thomas, 2000). Furthermore, evidence
suggests that teachers regard PBL as beneficial for both teachers and students
(Condliffe et al., 2017).
Researchers have identified common implementation challenges that relate to the
design principles of PBL. These include teachers’ knowledge, skills and attitude
related issues such as (1) teachers’ resistance to student-centred learning, (2)
confusing inquiry-based instruction with hands-on activities, (3) inability to motivate
students to work in collaborative teams, (4) scaffolding instruction, and (5) the
development of authentic assessment (Condliffe et al., 2017; Mentzer et al., 2017; Viro
et al., 2020). Furthermore, melding required curriculum with PBL is one of the most
important but difficult aspects of designing a project-based approach (Condliffe et al.,
2017). Other challenges relate to students’ resistance to employing critical thinking
(Mentzer et al., 2017), unsatisfactory group working (Condliffe et al., 2017), lack of
motivation (Condliffe et al., 2017; Marshall et al., 2010) and readiness for student-
centred approaches in integrated science education (Han et al., 2015). In addition,
teachers struggle with time constraints and inadequacy of resources to support in-
depth student investigations needed for constructing knowledge (Condliffe et al.,
2017; Viro et al., 2020).
Externally developed PBL curricular units for science education, such as Project-
Based Inquiry Science (Kolodner et al., 2015) and Investigating and Questioning our
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World through Science and Technology (Shwartz et al., 2008), have been developed
in recent years to answer the challenges. Both were inspired by the project-based
science design principles of Blumenfeld et al. (1991) and Krajcik and Shin (2014),
which emphasize driving questions, collaborative student-led inquiry, the use of
technology to scaffold student learning, and the creation of authentic artefacts. The
common thread of PBL elements that runs through these two middle school science
curricula demonstrates the importance of connecting concepts, research, and practice
(Condliffe et al., 2017; Kolodner et al., 2015; Shwartz et al., 2008). However, the
externally developed curricula can be overly prescriptive, and most teachers do not
have access to them (Condliffe et al., 2017). As a result, PBL continues to be mostly
designed and implemented by teachers on their own.
Teachers’ self-perception and conceptualization of teacher roles have a
fundamental impact on teachers’ implementation of PBL (Habók & Nagy, 2016). Han
et al. (2015) state that teachers’ role in implementing STEM related PBL must differ
from the traditional classrooms. Changing teachers’ beliefs about their role in a
classroom from that of director to facilitator is one of the main implementation
challenges for student-centred pedagogical approaches like PBL (Ertmer & Simons,
2006). In addition, teachers’ beliefs about their students’ potential can also influence
PBL implementation (Condliffe et al., 2017). In relation to integrated science
education, the evidence suggests that teachers’ understanding and implementation of
PBL affects learning outcomes (Han et al., 2015; Kingston, 2018).
Viro et al. (2020) investigated teachers’ views on PBL in mathematics and science.
The results were somewhat varied. The development of teamwork skills and the
connection between theory and practice were both deemed highly important
characteristics of PBL. Other elements of PBL, that teachers perceived positively, were
its contribution to students’ motivation and mathematics learning. However, teachers
expressed contradictory views on PBL: (1) it was irrelevant for mathematics, and (2)
it hinders organizing, scheduling and teamwork. Furthermore, teachers perceived
PBL negatively because it was an unfamiliar method to them (Viro et al., 2020).
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3 Methodology
The main question that guided this qualitative study from the start was: How can PBL
be implemented in integrated science education? This question was further divided
into three sub-questions:
1. What are teachers’ perceptions on the advantages of implementing PBL?
2. What are teachers’ perceptions on the challenges of implementing PBL?
3. What kind of elements of PBL are incorporated in teachers’ practices reported
to the StarT programme?
The study consists of two parts. First, a qualitative-led survey (Braun et al., 2017)
was administered through an online reporting form of the StarT programme. Second,
a case study (Cohen et al., 2007) was made to have a more in-depth understanding of
teachers’ practices reported to the StarT programme.
3.1. Context of the study
StarT is an international programme organized annually by LUMA Centre Finland
and for the first time in the 20162017 school year. The aim of StarT is to support
integrated science, mathematics and technology education by collaborative PBL from
early childhood education to upper secondary school. The PBL approach of StarT
includes broad themes (e.g. Mathematics around us, Nature and environment, Well-
being, and Stars and space) to help teachers and students focus their project activities.
There are five requirements and a recommendation for StarT projects:
1. The project is multidisciplinary and linked to science, mathematics or
technology.
2. The project is carried out in a team of students.
3. The project is a product of the students’ work, showing their expertise and
making use of their own interest and creativity.
4. The project includes a learning diary that outlines what students have learned
during the project.
5. The project results in a final artefact that is visualized by a short video.
6. It is recommended that students are given a chance to present their project
publicly. In addition, project descriptions, videos and diaries are published as
examples on the webpage of StarT.
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In other respects, the StarT programme gives teachers autonomy to design their
own PBL units (e.g. the form of the artefact, the length of the project or the subjects
to be incorporated).
3.2. Data collection
Data was collected from January to March 2017 through the StarT online reporting
form in Finnish and in English. The participants are considered active teachers who
are motivated to develop their teaching, as they have voluntarily taken part in the
international StarT programme and designed and implemented their own PBL unit in
science, mathematics and technology education. For StarT programme, participants
were asked to report PBL practices and activities implemented during 2016 or 2017.
In addition, participating teachers were asked to answer the survey questionnaire. Out
of 275 teachers, 244 participated in the research: 99 Finnish teachers and 145 teachers
from 27 other countries, mainly from Europe. Teachers represented various levels of
education, from early childhood education to upper secondary schools. Teacher
distribution, according to the taught level of education, for Finnish teachers was 13%
in early childhood education, 57% in primary schools, 24% in secondary schools and
6% in upper secondary schools. The taught level of education was lacking in many
reports of international teachers.
Based on the reports, twelve PBL units were chosen for the case study to examine
how the design principles of PBL were incorporated in teachers’ practices. The data
included project descriptions, videos, photographs, and diaries as well as teachers’
descriptions of their practices related to carrying out StarT projects. The selection of
cases was done according to two criteria: 1) the PBL unit had a comprehensive report
and 2) the sample would include various project examples with different StarT themes
and from different education levels and countries. A short description of the chosen
cases is given in Table 2.
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157
Table 2. The twelve project-based learning (PBL) units included in the case study. Description includes the
country, the level of education, the StarT theme, the length of the PBL unit and the number of projects
done by student groups.
CASE
Country
Level of education
of
StarT theme
Length of the PBL unit
1
Lithuania
Primary school (4th
grade)
Everyday
mathematics
Time spent on project was
spread across the school
year
2
Indonesia
Lower secondary
school (8th grade)
Technology
around us
4 weeks
3
Greece
Lower secondary
school
Programming
and robotics
Not specified
4
Romania
Upper secondary
school
Stars and
space
Not specified
5
Portugal
Upper secondary
school
Well being
From December 2016 to
March 2017
6
Turkey
Upper secondary
school (16-year-old)
Nature and
environment
Not specified
7
Spain
Secondary school
Everyday
mathematics
Not specified
8
Hungary
From early childhood
education to
secondary schools
Nature and
environment
A week, working daily
9
Belgium
Primary school (5th
grade)
Programming
and robotics
Six or sevensessions
during a month
10
Finland
Primary school (5th
grade) and lower
secondary school
Stars and
space
Time spent on project was
spread across the school
year
11
Finland
Lower secondary
school (9th grade)
Nature and
environment,
Technology
around us
Two or three lessons (45
minutes) per integrated
subject; approximately 10
lessons
12
Lithuania
Upper secondary
school
Everyday
mathematics
Multiple project events
organized during the
school year
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3.3. Data analysis
As the aim of this study is to explore and understand how PBL can be implemented in
integrated science education, a qualitative content analysis (Drisko & Maschi, 2015;
Mayring, 2014) was chosen as an analysis method both for the qualitative-led survey
and the case study.
A qualitative content analysis with an explorative design (Mayring, 2014) was used
in the survey. It included a data-based, inductive category formation of teachers
(n=244) answers to open-ended questions mapping, (1) teachers’ experiences with
PBL in StarT, (2) teachers’ perceptions of the main advantages of implementing PBL,
and (3) teachers’ perceptions of the main challenges of implementing PBL. Teachers’
answers were first coded with a partial sample (99 Finnish teachers) and tested with
two inter-raters. Cohen’s kappa coefficient was chosen to test the reliability as it is
used for assessing agreement between two raters on a nominal scale. Once the
reliability was considered good (>0.60), the coding was done for the whole sample.
The material not relevant for answering the research questions were omitted from the
analysis. The final inter-coder reliability was k=0,79 for the categories of advantages
of PBL and k=0,82 for the challenges of PBL.
The analysis technique followed in the case study was an interpretive, theory-
driven content analysis (Drisko & Maschi, 2015; Mayring, 2014). It aimed at
describing the elements of PBL incorporated in the 12 PBL units chosen as cases (see
Table 2). An effort was made to ensure reliability of the case study through a careful
analysis of the versatile data reported by teachers, and by checking the intra-coder
reliability throughout the analysis process. The reliability could be improved by an
inter-coded reliability.
4 Results
4.1. Advantages of PBL in practice
Teachers viewed PBL as having multiple advantages that are shown in Table 3.
Especially, teachers (60,7%) valued PBL for its possibilities for learning. Often these
answers referred to learning in general such as we learned a lot more than we initially
thought we would(teacher F3), or the answers related to students’ increased skills
(e.g. group working, social interaction and problem-solving skills) as well as to
students learning how to use equipment or programs; often related to making videos.
Fewer comments related to the learning of subject content knowledge, and only a
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159
couple of teachers mentioned students having a more interconnected view as a
learning advantage. Mostly learning was regarded from student’s point of view, but in
some instances learning included everyone involved in the project, students and
teachers alike.
Table 3. Teachersviews on the advantages of project-based learning (PBL).
Advantages of PBL
Teachers
Finnish (99)
Other (145)
All (244)
n
n (%)
n
n (%)
n
n (%)
Learning outcomes
Skills
Increased awareness
62
37
2
62,6
37,4
2,0
86
43
27
59,3
29,7
18,6
148
80
29
60,7
32,8
11,9
Collaboration
57
57,6
74
51,0
131
53,7
Motivation
56
56,6
41
28,3
97
39,8
Student-centredness
47
47,5
44
30,3
91
37,3
Versatility for education
36
36,4
49
33,8
85
34,8
Many teachers (53,7%) valued collaboration and a sense of community generated
by the practice. Collaboration with other teachers or classes was found useful in
practice:
More experienced teachers oriented the less experienced teachers and always
supported them. (Teacher I29)
Projects unified the whole school and added communality and we
atmosphere. (Teacher F2)
Collaboration between classes of different age students was enjoyable and
important. (Teacher F24)
In addition, the wider collaboration possibilities offered by StarT or collaboration
with other interest groups were found fruitful as a support for implementation or
because of the opportunities for public presentation of the projects:
The idea [of StarT] is interesting because it is an opportunity for our high school
to highlight our activities and share them with others. (Teacher I2)
Belonging to a bigger unity has given structure to our project. The educators
have had an opportunity to get peer support and ideas to own project. (Teacher
F103)
Students demonstrated their work to their parents. The parents are proud of
them. (Teacher I21)
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The greatest experience was that the students have learned to work in teams
not only with mates but also with parents, grandparents, teachers. (Teacher
I84)
Kids share their knowledge and tell everyone (to friend, father or mother, kids
from other class and all schools community) about their project and what they
have learned during this StarT project. (Teacher I52)
Some reported collaboration as a benefit because it created more joy or positive
attitudes that can have an effect on the motivation of students and teachers. This was
evident in the answers highlighting motivation as the main benefit. Motivational
aspects of PBL related to positive attitude change, building self-esteem, relevance,
enthusiasm and getting excited or engaged in project working. Most answers related
to enthusiasm.
The enthusiasm for project-based work was very infectious and initiated an
actual snowball effect as the idea to pick Aronia berries for juice developed into
a diverse market day! (Teacher F11)
In the student-centred learning category, most cases were about students being
active learners. In addition, comments related to group working and taking different
learners or students’ interests into account. Versatility in education was a more
heterogenic category compared to the others. This category included all cases with
new possibilities for implementing curriculum and using versatile teaching methods
and learning environments.
Finnish teachersviews differed somewhat from the teachers in other countries.
Finnish teachers regarded the student-centred nature of PBL as one of the main
benefits or even the most useful element of PBL, whereas a minority of teachers from
other countries mentioned this element as a benefit. On the contrary, they seemed to
view the usefulness more from the perspective of teaching and regarded the versatility
of education as one of the main benefits.
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4.2. Challenges of the PBL in practice
Teachers’ views on the challenges (see Table 4) of implementing PBL were more
coherent than views on the advantages of PBL.
Table 4. Teachers’ views on the challenges of implementing project-based learning (PBL).
Challenges of PBL
Teachers
Finnish (99)
Other (145)
All (244)
n
n (%)
n
n (%)
n
n (%)
Facilitating PBL
Time management
Project facilitation
Teachers skills
62
33
30
12
62,6
33,3
30,3
12,1
81
26
51
9
55,9
17,9
35,2
6,2
143
59
81
21
58,6
24,2
33,2
8,6
Structural issues
Technical
Resources
35
26
35,4
26,3
16
10
11,0
6,9
51
36
20,9
14,8
Interactional issues
Student-related
Collaboration
23
20
23,2
20,2
30
10
20,7
6,9
53
30
21,7
12,3
Facilitating PBL was considered the main challenge in most responses. Besides
facilitating the project work, this included notions relating to time management or
laborious planning. In addition, responses were linked to teachers’ self-efficacy or
their perceived skills to facilitate PBL, even if this was not explicitly voiced.
Believing in yourself [was a challenge for me]. I took this as a big challenge to
experience and learn something new and I exposed myself to learning a new
teaching method. (Teacher F90)
Doing [projects] raises feelings of insecurity on whether this is away from
something important and have we fulfilled the subject content required by
curriculum. The most difficult part was to manage the time. We had lots of
thoughts to discuss and sort out the information to improve and get the best
project in two months. (Teacher I99)
Technical issues include not only the challenges faced with using different
technological tools, but also issues with the documentation for StarT such as “making
video with non-existent ICT skills” (Teacher F30). The second structural issue related
to resources or the lack there of; mainly teachers were lacking space, ICT equipment
and time.
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Student-related challenges revealed that teachers were having motivational issues
with students, as either it was difficult getting different learners engaged into active
learning and working(Teacher F34), or students were so engaged that they “were
working much more than was needed to fit into the curriculum” (Teacher I152). In
some cases, students lost their interest during the project work, as was reported by
Teacher F71:The schedule was too heavy, and some students got tired and started to
go it alone. It has taken the time of the adults involved in the project to motivate these
students shirking their duties.” Furthermore, teachers reported issues with
scaffolding instructionsin balanced proportions, so that you don’t restrict students
too much but give opportunities and offer tools (Teacher F52) and with students’
inadequate skills and knowledge.
The most challenging was to find suitable action that suited the studentsskills.
(Teacher F35)
The most challenging part of our project was that it took time for the students
to realize their potential because they had never taken part in similar projects
before. (Teacher I13)
Working in pre-set groups is not easy for everybody. (Teacher F55)
Possibilities for collaboration were reported as limited, mainly because teachers
had trouble with finding the time for planning with colleagues.
Overall, Finnish teachers reported more challenges with collaboration, time
management and technical issues than teachers from other countries. Language was
not a challenge to Finnish teachers. However, this most likely is because Finnish
teachers could report in Finnish or Swedish. Teachers from other countries all
reported in English.
4.3. TeachersPBL practices
Teacherspractices analysed in this study seemed initially to meet most of the PBL
design principles. All projects featured the elements specified in StarT project
requirements. However, in closer inspection, the variation and shortcomings of the
implementations became evident. The overall results are gathered in Appendix 1.
Student learning goals. Mainly the learning outcomes set for the projects related
to 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving and
thinking skills. However, in 75% of the cases, teachers reported learning goals related
HAATAINEN & AKSELA (2021)
163
to subject contents or cross-curricular concepts, especially socio-scientific issues
(SSI).
We develop a pro-active, dynamic, open-minded attitude, valuating the creative
potential and the personal experience of each individuals involved in the project
(students, teachers), as well as their high order abilities and cross-curricular
capacities, their learning, research, thinking, communication, cooperation,
working, adaptability competences, namely the 21st century competence.
(Teacher, case 4)
The main objective is to study the mathematical properties of the mosaics
(tessellations of the plane), in addition to the way in which they have been
constructed (using twirls, symmetries, translations, ...). (Teacher, case 7)
Centrality of the project. All reported practices and projects had elements
indicating PBL being viewed as a learning process rather than a simple project
product to indicate previously learned. Some teachers specified the process steps and
others emphasized the link between project practice and subject content in design.
However, teachers’ responses were contradictory. For example, in case one the
learning goal focused on skills and “applying the acquired knowledge of
mathematics”, indicating the project is perhaps seen more like a rehearsal. This was
also a very teacher-led project: the teacher set all specific learning activities that
accumulated into workshops and assignments to be used at a special event for the
school and parents.
Contextual. This category was divided into three subcategories specifying how the
context had been taken into account in the practices:
1. Projects that had a driving question or a problem
2. Projects based on a common theme or a topic
3. Projects linked to real-world
In most cases (11 out of 12), context was created by a theme that could be directly
taken from the themes of StarT programme such as “Mathematics around us or
themes related to real-world issues such as climate change or gender equality. Less
than half of the cases (5 out of 12) had set a driving question. Some questions were
driven from students interest and engaged in inquiry and investigation such as “How
can we solve the problem of not being seen as a pedestrian on the dark roads?(case
2). However, some of the driving questions were not open-ended or engaged in
inquiry. For example, “Why is Mars called a red planet?” (case 3) enables copying the
answer directly from Wikipedia. In this case, teachers give students the autonomy to
LUMAT
164
choose their own questions. However, with some guidance, the question could have
been revised into one that engages in inquiry and focuses the project activities towards
the main goal of learning programming.
Project artefact. As it was a requirement of StarT programme, in all projects a
product or products were made. These were for example booklets, posters, written
reports, crafted products with electronics, videos, songs, exhibitions, and workshops
for other students and parents. In most cases, students had the freedom to choose
what was created. In four projects, the artefact to be created was set by the teachers
in preplanning phase.
Collaborative learning. This category was divided into three subcategories to
specify the nature of collaboration. In all projects, the students worked in groups, as
this was a requirement of the StarT programme. 66,7 % of the projects were
interdisciplinary and included collaboration with teachers of different subjects.
Furthermore, collaboration was done with other classes and different education levels
as well as with experts and organizations.
Our Science Festival was called What About Geology?”… As the teams
investigated and studied the subject, the group of cicerones, with my help, drew
the space that would be our festival (four in total). The collaboration of the
community was essential: the city council provided transportation for
kindergarten students [to the festival], the military provided and set up four
tents and two large awnings, the school staff helped in the construction of some
scientific models and in the placement of large structures, gym teachers assisted
in the supervision… National geoparks, science centres and biosphere reserves
were present; the university experts trained the students in the areas that were
being investigated. (a teacher, case 5)
Constructive nature of PBL was featured in all projects except one. This was
mainly concluded from the aims teachers and students had set for their working. To
support the construction of knowledge, teacherspractices included for example
lecturing, using assignments or mind-maps, and collaborating with experts. In many
cases, projects were based on inquiry and investigations that included gathering of
information from various sources. Discussions and brainstorming sessions were used
within the group, with the teacher or with the whole class. Furthermore, with projects
focused on building a concrete artefact, students tested possible solutions and built
prototypes.
The full potential of the learning diary was not utilized, as it was evident that in
most cases the diaries were written after the project was finished, therefore, serving
more as reports. Only one project (case 9) clearly used the diary as a tool for reflection
HAATAINEN & AKSELA (2021)
165
and assessment with students writing daily about the progress of the project and their
group working.
Student engagement was taken into consideration in all cases. The practices
varied from teacher-led projects (four out of 12), to student-centred projects (three
out of 12). Most cases had elements of both with teachers setting the aims and frame
for working, and students making their choices within the frame. Teachers’ practices
to engage and activate students included discussions, brainstorming, hands-on
activities, quizzes and study visits. In addition, participation in contest and events,
such as offered by StarT, can be seen as an engaging practice.
Scaffolding instructions were not specifically mentioned by teachers, but project
reports included various elements of teacherspractices to support and guide student
working. For example, in case four, teachers set a clear timeframe with deadlines for
the studentsproject working, and in case twelve, a Facebook group was set up to ask
questions and give project updates.
Assessment. Only a few teachers mentioned aspects of assessment in their reports.
From the data gathered, it was mostly impossible to draw any conclusion about the
assessment of the project.
Publicity was mentioned in the recommendations of StarT programme and all
projects were presented publicly. Mainly this was done in schools with other classes,
teachers, and school staff as audience, but some projects participated in local events
or organized one such as an exhibition in library by themselves. Furthermore, the
project products in five cases were public by nature. For example, publicly distributed
videos and websites were created.
5 Discussion
5.1. Teachers’ perceptions of the advantages of PBL
National curricula, standards and many researchers promote PBL as a potential
method for integrated science education and for learning the 21st century skills. The
class, science and mathematics teachers participating in this study share this positive
perception of the advantages of PBL. Especially for learning science and mathematics-
related skills such as problem-solving, inquiry and critical thinking. Teachers
regarded increased motivation, collaboration and educational versatility among the
main advantages of PBL. These results relating to teachers’ perceptions of the
advantages of PBL are consistent with earlier findings (e.g. Han et al., 2015; Kingston,
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166
2018; Viro et al., 2020). Interestingly, few teachers mentioned as an advantage the
promotion of interconnected worldview that has been highlighted in literature
(Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Czerniak & Johnson, 2014), especially in relation to PBL
being an integrated approach to science education.
Finnish teachers’ perception on the advantages of PBL varied from teachers from
other countries. Finnish teachers regarded as a major benefit the student-centred
nature of the PBL, whereas international teachers emphasized more the versatility to
education. This can perhaps be explained by the nature of StarT programme, as in
Finland it includes collaborative events, science and technology festivals, for both
students and teachers to share their learning and practices. Whereas international
StarT programme was focused on the competition.
5.2. The PBL design principles of teachers’ practices
To have successful outcomes, PBL implementations must meet design principles (see
synthesis in Table 1) that are still under some debate. This lack of a uniform vision of
PBL still continues to complicate the efforts to determine the quality of a PBL unit and
to evaluate its effects (Condliffe et al., 2017; Hasni et al., 2016). Results of this study
indicated that teachers’ PBL practices seemed to meet most of the key elements.
However, in closer inspection the inadequacy and variation of the implementations
became clear.
First, the amount of student autonomy varied from teacher-led activities with little
student choice to complete student autonomy in relation to the execution of projects.
In general, students’ involvement was minimal or even absent in setting the learning
aims, overall theme, schedule and assessment of the project. This raises the question
whether all PBL practices meet the criteria for successful PBL in the first place, as
student choice is a key element of the PBL approach (e.g. Bell, 2010; Boss & Larmer,
2018; Kokotsaki et al., 2016).
Second, half of the cases in the case study had not set a clear driving question or a
problem to focus students’ inquiries and motivate learning. Instead, the PBL activities
and artefact created were based on a common theme. It should be noted that the
broader theme allowed in some cases more freedom for the students to choose over
the direction of their own project, and it is possible students set specific questions or
problems even though this was not brought out in the material teachers or students
shared with the StarT programme. In any case, a clearly set driving question is argued
as an essential criterion by many researchers (e.g. Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Boss &
HAATAINEN & AKSELA (2021)
167
Larmer, 2018; Condliffe et al., 2017) and a lack thereof can have an effect on the
learning outcome.
Third, the construction of knowledge was further lacking as many projects seemed
to lack the critique and revision phases. Partly this can be because of the difficulties
to manage time that was mentioned by many teachers as one of the main challenges.
The critique or revision was mainly done in two phases of a project process: (1) in the
beginning to assess what is known and what needs to be learned, and (2) while
presenting the project and artefact at the end of the project process.
Fourth, perhaps relating to the previous, only a couple of cases referred to
formative assessment as being a part of the PBL unit, even though most teachers had
set specific learning goals for students’ projects. PBL should not merely be a
supplementary activity that supports learning; the project should be central in the
learning process (Boss & Larmer, 2018; Condliffe et al., 2017; Thomas, 2000), and
assessment should be formative by nature to include students’ entire learning process.
In addition, the full potential of project diaries as a learning aid and an assessment
tool was not taken advantage of as many reported to have written the diaries after the
project process, only as a part of the reporting to StarT programme. However, one
should not generalize this observation, as there was not enough evidence about the
assessment included in the PBL units. It is possible that teachers did not feel the need
to report about their assessment to the StarT programme, as assessment was not
stated in the guidelines for StarT projects nor in the assessment criteria for the StarT
competition. Could it be that teachers regarded participating in StarT as being only
motivational, adding versatility to their education, and not as being part of the science
education curriculum? Regardless, to be feasible in science education PBL should
include the learning of curriculum concepts through a project (Bell, 2010; Savery,
2019; Viro & Joutsenlahti, 2020) and these curriculum-related contents should be
included in the assessment of the project.
5.3. Teachers’ perceptions of the challenges of PBL
Teacherspractices and professional competence for implementing PBL have an effect
on the challenges teachers face while implementing PBL. Major challenges, according
to this study, are facilitating PBL and the lack of time (similar to Mentzer et al., 2017).
Often teachers referred as a challenge the planning time with colleagues or the time-
consuming nature of project work in general. The latter is an issue teacher can
facilitate, as are many of the challenges teachers reported (see Table 3). Thorough and
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168
careful planning is essential to the flow of the project and the success of students (Bell,
2010). Unfortunately, teachers are reporting that they do not have sufficient time for
planning, and it can have a direct effect on the implementation as well as on teachers
and students’ experiences during the PBL unit.
Interestingly, Finnish teachers reported more challenges compared to teachers
from other countries. Internationally, StarT is mainly a competition, and this could
have had an effect on the reports by international teachers and their desire to portrait
their own work in as positive light as possible. However, PBL is a new approach to
Finnish teachers; can it be that their inexperience with PBL is showing in these
results? On the other hand, based on the cases analysed in this study, the Finnish
projects were more collaborative and student-centred, which could explain the greater
amount of faced challenges. Earlier research has indicated that the culture and
educational system has an influence on teachers and their teaching approaches.
Further research comparing different countries, cultures and educational systems is
needed to answer these questions.
6 Conclusions
Teachers are in a pivotal position in transferring PBL into integrated science
classroom practices that are commended by many national science curricula and
reforms. How teachers perceive and implement PBL greatly affects learning
outcomes. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore and understand teachers’
perceptions and practices. The results are based on teachers’ reports to the StarT
programme. Efforts were made to ensure the reliability of the results through a careful
analysis of versatile data as well as checking the intra- and inter-coder reliability.
However, the researchers had minimal opportunity, only through videos and
photographs, to observe the actual implementations of the PBL units analysed in the
case study. Even though the results cannot be generalized, they add to our
understanding of teachers’ perceptions of PBL and PBL design principles for
integrated science education.
The results of this study indicate that teachers have a general idea of PBL and its
advantages. Nevertheless, even the implementations of active teachers who
voluntarily share their practice and participate in a competition seem to be lacking in
certain key elements, such as assessment or the critique and revision phase. In
addition, the results indicate and support earlier findings on the challenges teachers
face when implementing PBL. The structural challenges reported in this and earlier
HAATAINEN & AKSELA (2021)
169
studies (e.g. Viro et al., 2020; Mentzer et al., 2017) are hindering schools and teachers
efforts to implement PBL in integrated science education and should, therefore, be
taken into account on a national level, when reforming curriculum or standards
recommending integrated approaches such as PBL. Teachers can partly overcome the
challenges relating to facilitating PBL with more experience and a deeper
understanding of the PBL method. To this end, we have two recommendations. One,
the academic discussion and research to further clarify the PBL design principles
should continue to achieve a consensus on PBL as a method for integrated science
teaching. For example, PBL design principles should address the content of learning
to guarantee the inclusion of core concepts and skills of integrated subjects. Second,
teachers need education programmes that support their pedagogical competence in
executing PBL in integrated science education.
The results could be taken carefully into account in preparing teacher education
for pre-service and in-service teachers. Without adequate attention to ways of
supporting teachers, these innovative educational approaches will not be widely
adopted (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Mentzer et al., 2017). Integrated approaches such as
PBL also require substantial changes in teachers thinking about and dispositions
toward classroom structures, activities, and tasks (Han et al., 2015). Furthermore, as
it can take even two to three years for teachers to shift their understanding and learn
to use PBL in practice (Mentzer et al., 2017), there is a need for developing long-term
or even continuous and collaborative models for teacher education. Some teachers in
StarT found collaborative learning and being a part of an international community
professionally useful. Therefore, StarT in itself could be seen as a novel model for
continuous teacher education programme in which:
1. Teacherspedagogical development occurs while facilitating PBL and working
together with the students, other teachers and other collaborators.
2. Teachers have access to tested models for PBL and good teaching practices
from other teachers as well as online instructions and training.
3. Participating teachers and schools are a part of the StarT community, where
learning is shared through workshops, science fairs and online voting for best
projects as well as best teaching practices.
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170
Acknowledgements
The researchers would like to express their gratitude to the LUMA Centre Finland for
the opportunity to gather data and conduct research as a part of the StarT programme.
The research has been partly carried out under a grant from the Finnish Cultural
Foundation.
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Appendix
Appendix 1: The Elements of project-based learning (PBL) per case and examples of teaching practices related to the elements.
Elements of PBL
Cases
Science teaching practices related to the element
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Learning goals
1
n/a
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
To apply and learn subject knowledge; to understand the
relationships between phenomena; to improve thinking,
communication and team-working skills; to train creativity and
rigour; to improve self-esteem and motivation; to raise awareness
of an issue related to the project (e.g. climate change and gender
equality); to grow up to be responsible citizens.
Subject content
1
n/a
1
0
1
0
1
1
1
1
1
1
Skills
1
n/a
n/a
1
1
1
0
1
1
0
0
1
Centrality of the
project
1
n/a
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Setting project framework or steps of the process; integrating
project working into subject teaching by choosing a convenient
theme and allocating sufficient lesson time for projects; including
versatile teaching activities to bridge theory and practice;
supporting inquiry
Contextual
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Teachers set a theme or a problem beforehand that can be
incorporated into subject teaching; setting a common theme or
problem together with students; deriving a theme or a problem
from the local context; giving students freedom to choose their
own driving question or a problem from a common theme.
Driving question
0
1
0
0
1
1
0
n/a
1
0
1
0
Theme-based
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Real world
0
1
0
0
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Project artefact
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Booklets, brochures, posters, written reports, crafted products
with electronics, videos, quizzes, songs, workshops for younger
students and exhibitions.
Collaborative
learning
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Whole class discussions and brainstorming, working in small groups
of 3 to 5 students or in pairs, collaboration of multiple classed
(same grade or different graded) and different subjects,
collaboration with organizations or companies (special material,
expertise), public presentation for larger audience (whole school,
parents, at events).
Group work
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Interdisciplinary
1
0
1
1
0
n/a
0
1
1
1
1
1
Other
1
0
1
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
1
HAATAINEN & AKSELA (2021)
173
Constructive
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
Establishing the aim and tasks, gathering information by student
(using schoolbooks and online resources) or given by teachers or
outside experts (lectures, demonstrations, and assignments),
discussing and analysing the problem (within group, with teacher
and/or the whole class), students test possible solutions (building a
prototype, taking measurements), writing project diaries, making
mind-maps.
Investigation
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
0
1
0
1
Critique and
revision
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
0
1
Student
engagement
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Group formation by teachers or students; students involvement in
choosing a theme, aims, project artefact and how to work and
create the artefact varied from teacher-led to autonomous group
work by the students; often teachers set the frame for the project
and students work autonomously inside the frame. Teachers
engage students by discussions, brainstorming, activities (hands-
on, games or quizzes), participating in contests and study visits.
Student-centred
0
1
1
1
1
1
0
1
0
0
1
1
Teacher-led
1
0
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
1
0
Scaffolding
instruction
1
n/a
0
1
n/a
n/a
0
1
1
n/a
1
1
Diversifying learning assignments and projects, giving theory
lessons related to the project topic, setting the project phases and
schedule, guiding towards a source of information (books, online
material, experts), providing needed resources, asking guiding
questions, making it possible for students to help each other and
ask questions.
Assessment
1
n/a
n/a
1
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
n/a
n/a
1
Students reflect on their work (what was successful, what did not
work, what they learned) for example in project diaries or during
presentations. Presentations, class discussion and forms are used
as opportunities for peer and teacher feedback, school teachers
and other experts asked to evaluate project presentations, quizzes
relating to project theme, voting for best project artefacts,
participating in contest
Project artefact
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
1
Student reflection
1
n/a
n/a
1
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
n/a
n/a
1
Feedback
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
n/a
n/a
1
Publicity
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Organizing fairs or exhibitions (school, library, local events) with
oral presentations, posters and stands to present the project and
artefact, oral presentations in classroom, building a website for
the project, making a short video and other online applications,
writing a magazine, making a brochure.
Public presentation
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Public product
0
0
1
0
0
1
0
0
1
0
1
1
... For example, StarT does not mention driving questions, and although ¾ of the projects were centred around solving a problem, no driving questions were visible. Similar to this study, Haatainen & Aksela (2021) found that only half of the 12 StarT schools they studied included driving questions in their projects. Driving questions have previously been identified as the most challenging aspect of PBL (Mentzer et al., 2017), but it is likely that the studied teachers were not even familiar with the concept as there were no mentions of this 'hallmark' of PBL. ...
... Teachers might see PBL as student-centred (Aksela & Haatainen, 2019) and use scientific practices in their projects, but the reality is that they can be employed in a highly teacher-led fashion too (Colley, 2006). Earlier research into StarT projects indicated that the projects varied from having "complete student autonomy" to having "teacher-led activities with little student choice" (Haatainen & Aksela, 2021). ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this multiple-case study was to research the key characteristics of project-based learning (PBL) and how teachers implement them within the context of science education. K-12 science teachers and their students’ videos, learning diaries and online questionnaire answers about their biology related PBL units, within the theme nature and environment, were analysed using deductive and inductive content analysis ( n = 12 schools). The studied teachers are actively engaged in PBL as the schools had participated voluntarily in the international StarT programme of LUMA Centre Finland. The results indicate that PBL may specifically promote the use of collaboration, artefacts, technological tools, problem-centredness, and certain scientific practices, such as carrying out research, presenting results, and reflection within science education. However, it appeared that driving questions, learning goals set by students, students’ questions, the integrity of the project activities, and using the projects as a means to learn central content, may be more challenging to implement. Furthermore, although scientific practices had a strong role in the projects, it could not be defined how strongly student-led the inquiries were. The study also indicated that students and teachers may pay attention to different aspects of learning that happen through PBL. The results contribute towards a deeper understanding of the possibilities and challenges related to implementation of PBL and using scientific practices in classrooms. Furthermore, the results and the constructed framework of key characteristics can be useful in promoting research-based implementation and design of PBL science education, and in teacher training related to it.
... The positive effects of such an approach, close to projectbased learning (PBL) (Cesarone, 2007), are in socializing students and connecting content and process skills to realworld situations. Such an approach is further recommended for integrated science teaching (Haatainen and Aksela, 2021) and, thus, enabling STEAM-integrated teaching in early childhood education. Nevertheless, this practice can be conceived as a multior interdisciplinary approach, whereas our research will focus especially on transdisciplinarity. ...
Article
Full-text available
During COVID-19 confinement, we observed numerous challenges in using educational technology in early childhood Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathematics (STEAM) education in Luxembourg. Thus, we designed a conceptual framework on parent-assisted remote teaching with active uses of educational technology supported by cycles of design-based research. After a previous study utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) software and three-dimensional (3D) printing in primary education, we used our initial findings to work with 12 early childhood students (ages 4-6), together with their teachers and parents in the second remote teaching period in Luxembourg. We created a STEAM modeling task with CAD software on robots and collected data through chat responses, messageboards, and online communication channels during a 3-week period. Here, we observed new roles in the parent-child relationship while learning STEAM in remote teaching with technology, and new opportunities in using educational technology overall in early childhood education. In this article, we have described findings that are likely to influence students' learning and parent-assisted teaching, in particular parents and students' perceptions and motivations, together with the way in which parents provide technical knowledge and support in remote early childhood STEAM education.
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Article
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Project-based teaching is nothing new; it originates from the work of authors like Dewey and Kilpatrick. Recent decades have seen renewed interest in this approach. In many countries, it is currently considered to be an innovative approach to science and technology (S&T) teaching. In this article, we present a systematic review of what recent scientific publications teach us about this approach: How is this approach identified in these publications? How is the use of this approach in school S&T justified? What are the main research questions covered by studies in the field? What do these studies on this approach teach us? To answer these questions, we have selected and analysed articles published, between 2000 and 2014, in journals that are specialised in school science and technology education and that are indexed in ERIC database. In the synthesis based on this analysis, we present: (a) the theoretical constructs used by the authors to refer to this approach and the features identified to define it; (b) the justifications for this approach; (c) the research questions covered by studies in the field; (d) the data collection and analysis methods used in these studies; and (e) the main findings. In addition to presenting a synthesis of current research in this field, we offer a critical discussion thereof with a focus on two aspects, namely the way PBSTL is conceptualised and the rigour of the research methods used to ensure the validity of findings.
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Project-based learning (PBL) is an active student-centred form of instruction which is characterised by students’ autonomy, constructive investigations, goal-setting, collaboration, communication and reflection within real-world practices. It has been explored in various contexts and in different phases of schooling, from primary to higher education. The majority of the reviewed studies were based on a quasi-experimental pretest–posttest design with some baseline equivalence established but no random allocation of participants to control and experimental groups, and as a result, a causal link between PBL instruction and positive student outcomes cannot be established with certainty. Modern digital technology, group processes of high quality, teachers’ ability to effectively scaffold students’ learning and provide guidance and support, the balance between didactic instruction with in-depth inquiry methods and well-aligned assessment have been identified in the literature as facilitating factors in the implementation of PBL. The article concludes with six key recommendations considered to be essential for the successful adoption of a PBL approach in the mainstream school setting.
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The Problem‐Based Learning (PBL) model of instruction developed initially for educating medical doctors has been adapted to a range of professional schools and disciplines. There are several learner‐centered pedagogical models that share some of the characteristics of PBL yet are different in terms of audience (learners) and the role of the instructor. The sharpest contrast is the difference between the tutor in PBL who serves as a process facilitator and coach for metacognitive thinking and the teacher who serves the same roles but in addition provides the learners with layers of support and direct instruction. The degree of ownership for learning for a developing professional is critical – thus the role of the tutor which facilitates the development of the metacognitive skills and abilities required for professional practice.
Presentation
Review presentation of my thesis in Nordina
Chapter
In this chapter, we explore four particular ways in which innovation has pushed qualitative data collection beyond the familiar focus on face-to-face interviews. We have chosen these methods both for their practicality and because they are tools and techniques we have used ourselves; as committed qualitative researchers, we can attest to their value. First, we identify the way innovation has occurred in response to rapidly changing socio-technological contexts: adaptations and expansions of traditional modes of researching, such as interviewing and focus groups, to utilise the potential of the connected, online worlds we increasingly live in. Second, concurrent with, but not synonymous with, theoretical shifts that have argued against a focus just on ‘the text’, we discuss the blossoming of pluralistic or multi-modal forms of interviewing and focus group research. These two offer examples of how traditionally qualitative methods have expanded beyond their origins; the next two offer examples of techniques which have been released from their quantitative moorings: qualitative surveys offer researchers access to familiar forms of data—personal accounts, perspectives and so on—often conceptualised as ‘representing the self’, somehow; story completion tasks, in contrast, provide something radically different: a window into the social meaning worlds of our participants. Read on—we hope you are inspired!
Article
Project-based science (PBS) aligns with national standards that assert children should learn science by actively engaging in the practices of science. Understanding and implementing PBS requires a shift in teaching practices away from one that covers primarily content to one that prompts children to conduct investigations. A common challenge to PBS implementation is a misunderstanding of the elements of PBS. Identification of these misunderstandings as well as implementation challenges could inform professional development. This case study examined 24 teachers’ understanding and implementation of PBS during participation in a consecutive three-year, comprehensive professional development program. Results provide insight as to the process they followed in the transition to implementing PBS. Measures included classroom observations, reflective interviews, and attitudinal surveys. Results showed that teachers developed the knowledge, confidence, and understanding to implement PBS but in most cases it took at least two to three years for positive results to become evident. Teachers struggled to develop adequate driving questions that provided project-focused lessons. Other obstacles included teacher resistance to student-directed instruction, confusing inquiry-based instruction with hands-on activities, and inability to motivate students to work in collaborative teams. While challenging, over time the teachers developed the knowledge, desire, and skills to implement PBS.
Chapter
Students living in today’s 21st-century society will experience dramatic scientific and technological breakthroughs. These students will also face social and global problems that can only be solved with widespread scientific and technological literacy. The science education community has long argued that society needs scientifically literate citizens, and yet research shows that many educational systems throughout the world are failing to graduate such students (OECD, 2007). To prepare children to live in a global 21st-century society, we need to dramatically change how we educate students. Learning sciences research can show us how to educate students for these 21st-century developments. Drawing on the cognitive sciences and other disciplines, learning scientists are uncovering the cognitive structure of deeper conceptual understanding and discovering principles that govern learning. This research has found that too many schools teach superficial knowledge rather than integrated knowledge that will allow students to draw on their understanding to solve problems, make decisions, and learn new ideas. Drawing on this research, many learning scientists are developing new types of curricula with the goal of increasing students’ engagement and helping them develop deeper understanding of important ideas. One such curricular effort is project-based learning (Blumenfeld, Fishman, Krajcik, Marx, & Soloway, 2000; Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, & Soloway, 1994). Project-based learning allows students to learn by doing, to apply ideas, and to solve problems. In so doing, students engage in real-world activities similar to those of professional scientists.