Cross posting
Jun 25th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Check out:

STEM Initiatives: Sparking Interest in Schools by the Rogers Corporation

I was asked to provide a quote:

“When students have the opportunity to showcase their work to professional audiences that go beyond the four walls of the classroom, it increases the quality.  There is no question that student achievement and engagement increase with these phenomenal events.”  Frank LaBanca, Director, Center for 21st Century Skills Education Connection

Project-based learning and problem solving
Sep 1st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Today I conducted a project-based learning workshop for the Science Department at East Haven High School. It’s always a bit never-wracking to present on a new topic – although I have been under the influence of project-based learning almost my entire career.

It’s amazing to see what works successfully and how you question it. For example, when talking about problem solving, I always bring up alternatives to hypthesis-based strategies. For example:

Abstraction: solving the problem in a model of the system before applying it to the real system
Analogy: using a solution that solved an analogous problem
Brainstorming: (especially among groups of people) suggesting a large number of solutions or ideas and combining and developing them until an optimum is found
Divide and conquer: breaking down a large, complex problem into smaller, solvable problems
Hypothesis testing: assuming a possible explanation to the problem and trying to prove (or, in some contexts, disprove) the assumption
Lateral thinking: approaching solutions indirectly and creatively
Means-ends analysis: choosing an action at each step to move closer to the goal
Method of focal objects: synthesizing seemingly non-matching characteristics of different objects into something new
Morphological analysis: assessing the output and interactions of an entire system
Reduction: transforming the problem into another problem for which solutions exist
Research: employing existing ideas or adapting existing solutions to similar problems
Root cause analysis: eliminating the cause of the problem
Trial-and-error: testing possible solutions until the right one is found
Proof: try to prove that the problem cannot be solved. The point where the proof fails will be the starting point for solving it

I think it is important to give a tangible example as well. I am particularly fond of goal-oriented problem solving, which often takes the form of trial-and-error. Today I showed the square peg-round hole problem from the movie Apollo 13, and to follow up we made our own creation by just following oral instructions: an origami box. I am always curious/cautious to see what happens when I try a new activity. To my relief and surprise, I was informed that this was an activity some of the teachers were going to try on the first day of school. Glad it had an impact!

I think one of the things that made it a success, was that I was explicit about the reason for doing it: to promote spacial literacy – relationships of shapes – ability follow oral directions – and tactile development. I have found that many teachers fall short on the explicitly of learning. Students are often puzzled as to the reason for their learning – evident by “what do we need to know that for?” I have found that when students have a clear understanding of what they are learning and justified reasoning, they often engage better and are more accepting and willing.

Perhaps we all should do some origami today.

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