Systematic Design of Blended PBL: Exploring the Design Experiences and Support Needs of PBL Novices in an Online Environment

Feb. 15, 2013

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(1), 61-79. (2013).
(Reviewed by the Team Portal)

This study aims to inform teacher educators, professional development specialists, and researchers how they can better support teachers in designing blended PBL, especially in online environments.
The following research questions were addressed:
• What difficulties and challenges did teachers who are PBL novices face as they designed their first blended PBL lesson?
• What are effective strategies to support PBL novices in designing a blended PBL lesson in an online environment?
• How did the PBL design experience impact PBL novices’ perceptions of PBL?

Participants were 5 students enrolled in an online graduate course in summer 2011 at a university in Texas.
They were all female and ranged in age from late 20s to early 50s.
All participants had no prior knowledge of PBL.

The study focused on an individual project, which required the participants to design a blended PBL lesson for their selected target audience.
Qualitative data were collected from multiple sources, including an online survey, initial design documents, feedback meeting notes, revised design documents, and reflection papers.

Implications for Professional Development Programs

The results of this study suggest that professional development programs provide PBL novices with (a) an opportunity to design the whole PBL process using a systematic approach,
(b) synchronous, interactive questioning sessions and customized scaffolding,
(c) concise and easy-to-understand guidelines and checklists, and
(d) opportunities to have a successful experience with PBL design.

The results of this study suggest that supporting PBL novices requires a comprehensive and
systematic approach.
The participants in this study initially designed teacher-centered learning processes and had difficulty designing learner-centered PBL processes, even after developing an appropriate PBL problem.
In order to help PBL novices effectively design a truly problem-based lesson, teacher educators should have them think through all aspects of PBL, from designing a PBL problem to assessment.

Furthermore, the hard scaffolds provided to support PBL design, including the design document template with guidelines, a summary of PBL, and a checklist for PBL scenarios, were helpful to the participants.
Soft scaffolding was necessary, however, to support their design efforts.
The participants had different support needs, and they often had difficulty articulating their thoughts.
Customized feedback, synchronous discussions, and interactive questioning were required to help them design their first blended PBL lesson.
The findings suggest that professional development programs should include synchronous meetings and provide customized scaffolding in order to support PBL novices in online environments.

Finally, the results also show that favorable attitudes and actual adoption are disparate
They believed that PBL was a great instructional method that enables students to develop 21st-century skills as well as deep understanding of subject matter content. Indeed, their discussion posts showed their positive attitudes toward PBL.
Their initial design documents, however, revealed that they did not yet adopt the new method. They produced teacher-centered lessons after all the discussions of PBL.
After revising their design documents they reported that they were excited and confident about implementing their PBL.

Therefore, professional development programs should provide teachers with opportunities to have a successful experience with PBL design beyond discussing the advantages of PBL and providing examples.

Updated: Sep. 10, 2014