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Problem -based learning in elementary science methods: Exploring a format to prepare teachers for the 21st century

Rodney Wayne Diercks, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In order to meet the demands of the twenty-first century, national standards are calling for a new type of teacher to educate the future workforce. These standards include new methods for preparing teachers to address the challenging and complex issues facing educators and students. The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method that has enjoyed success in medical training is showing promise in teacher education. The purpose of this blended case study was to describe the experiences of sixteen preservice teachers participating in a problem-based learning format while enrolled in a science methods class for elementary and middle school majors. The sixteen preservice teachers worked in collaborative groups mentored by inservice elementary and middle school teachers. The following five themes emerged regarding the effective implementation of PBL in teacher education: (1) The role of the instructor becomes one of facilitator; (2) The PBL process should be integrated throughout the entire course term; (3) The problems preservice teachers address must be challenging, personally relevant, and must build on their prior knowledge; (4) Students need to work collaboratively within the external conditions of safety, value, and freedom; (5) The solutions to the problems are most meaningful if students believe they can apply their solution to current and future classrooms. The Science Teacher Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) was administered before and after the PBL experience. The results indicated an increase in the preservice teachers' self-efficacy in teaching science. The results from the STEBI support the qualitative findings of the study. ^ The results of this study provide teacher education with a model for instruction that will help preservice teachers develop the skills and understandings of inquiry and inquiry-based methods needed to plan and teach successfully in their classrooms as well as collaborate and communicate with colleagues. ^

Subject Area

Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Diercks, Rodney Wayne, "Problem -based learning in elementary science methods: Exploring a format to prepare teachers for the 21st century" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3059945.