Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
In all content areas, students are presented with authentic, real-world problems on which to work. PBLs are connected to the standards for each content area and are incorporated into the existing units of study. PBLs typically include four phases: defining and understanding the problem, research, writing, and presenting solutions to community and industry experts. Additionally, PBLs must include an entrepreneurial effort and/or a service learning component, which means that many of these solutions continue to be developed after the unit of study is over. PBLs are essential to the STEM philosophy because they provide students with an authentic audience for their work and help foster relationships between schools and the communities they serve. At Northglenn High School, each teacher is required to assign at least one PBL each year.
As a regular classroom practice, teachers incorporate the science, art, and spirit of curiosity. Teachers instruct on the different levels of questioning, reading, and writing. They also provide a context, framework, and focus for student-generated questions and these questions frequently guide their research and activities during various units of study.
Collaborative Learning and 21st Century Skills
Skills that are essential to success in the workplace are often termed “21st Century Skills.” These skills include collaboration, innovation, creativity, problem solving, and use of technology. Part of our Adams 12 STEM philosophy involves structuring every classroom around these skills. Collaborative classrooms have students working in groups on a daily basis, and these students are problem-solving and developing an understanding of the curriculum collaboratively. The teacher assumes more of a facilitator/advisory role and works with students in small groups rather than giving large amounts of direct instruction to the whole class. Also, students access technology whenever possible to assist their learning. They are regularly developing skills on new software and applications and use technology to help them build understanding and demonstrate knowledge across content areas.
Whenever possible and especially during the course of a PBL, teachers incorporate the lenses of various disciplines in order to help students access the content and analyze it from different perspectives. These disciplines are ones that a student would typically encounter in an authentic context. For example, in a given scenario, students might look at a problem from the perspective (discipline) of an economist, an engineer, a public relations representative, and/or a government agency. Students may also look at the content through lenses such as cultural, social, political, economic, historical, and/or scientific.