PHOTON PBL Teachers’ Resources

NEBHE’s PBL Projects have produced a clearinghouse of teachers’ resources to be used in the implementation and assessment of the PBL Challenges. The resulting teachers’ resources have been developed and revised based on field-testing findings from the STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL projects.

What is the PBL Education Process?

Watch the How-To’ Video to Learn More!

The PBL Projects approach to assessing student learning includes three separate measures: content knowledgeconceptual knowledge and problem-solving ability. This model, developed and field-tested during NEBHE’s previous STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL projects, is illustrated below.


Content knowledge is assessed by content quizzes specific to each PBL Challenge, concept mapping assesses conceptual knowledge, and problem-solving ability is assessed by a final Challenge report. A guide to team assessment can be found here. For further information on assessment strategies for PBL, please read the guide to Assessing Student Learning in PBL by Advanced Manufacturing PBL Co-Principal Investigator Nicholas Massa, Professor, Laser and Fiber Optic Technology, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC).

Additional PHOTON PBL Teachers’ Resources Include:

  • Sample PHOTON PBL Implementation Stories
    • A sample of Implementation Stories from each PBL Project (AM PBL, STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL) have been compiled from teacher and student survey feedback received after a Challenge is completed. The compiled stories are drawn from different levels of education to show a sampling of how the Challenges are used in real high school, two- and four-year college classrooms. In each Challenges’ Teacher Resources section, a wider breadth of implementation stories exist that pertain specifically to the implementation of that Challenge. This section of the Challenge is password protected to prevent student access. Passwords can be obtained upon request by contacting

Challenge Partners & Collaborators

The PHOTON PBL project has developed a series of six multimedia industry-based Challenges. The Challenges are focused on Optics and Photonics and designed to stimulate problem-based learning in the classroom.  PHOTON PBL Challenge partners and project collaborators can be found below.


PBL Pedagogy Courses Developed at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU)

During NEBHE’s STEM PBL project funded by NSF-ATE, Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PI’s) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) adapted pre- and in-service technology and engineering education courses to include pedagogical lessons in PBL.

Students enrolled in the Teaching Technology and Engineering Education (TE-399) pre-service undergraduate course and the STEM PBL Applications for Science and Technology Teachers (TE-506) in-service graduate course experience PBL as a student in a STEM classroom. Pre- and in-service instructors are formed into teams to solve selected STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL Challenges (multimedia case studies) are offered at varying levels of instruction in order to receive a hands-on education in how to implement PBL into their own classrooms: structured (entirely instructor-led, least student autonomy), guided (instructor guided, increased student autonomy) and open-ended (instructor as facilitator, most student autonomy).

Through participation in the CSSU courses, pre- and in-service technology and engineering education instructors:

  • Learn how to incorporate problem based learning in the classroom by using NEBHE’s field-tested web-based PBL Challenges developed by the STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL projects.
  • Experience PBL as students tasked with solving a PBL Challenge would.
  • Receive a comprehensive overview of student and teachers’ resources developed by the project.
  • Learn field-tested assessment and implementation strategies for problem based learning.
  • Receive access to the PHOTON PBL and STEM PBL instructional materials.
  • Gain access to a PBL listserv for continued networking with the PBL project team and PBL practitioners.

For more information on the CCSU PBL pedagogy courses, please contact James DeLaura, chair, Technology and Engineering Education Department, CCSU at



The PHOTON email listserv is a virtual community of more than 100 high school and college educators and industry mentors who answer technical questions on optics and photonics science, applications and careers. Postings can include essential teaching materials, useful web links, and information on programs and grants. To sign up for the listserv, or for more information about it, please contact Fenna Hanes at


Career Materials

Other Materials

Other materials and links from other institutions.

  • Fiber Optic Communications Educational Toolkit (PDF Format) – A PowerPoint presentation (saved in PDF format) developed by Professors Akram Abu-aisheh and Jonathan Hill at the University of Hartford Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. It explains how to develop a low cost educational tool kit for teaching fiber optics to undergraduates and graduates. This lab supplement provides a new way to study the physical layer of high speed fiber optic communications systems.

General Links

  • TRCC Links Page – A treasure trove of links related to optics education from Three Rivers Community College.
  • Optics for Kids – A website created by OSA with many age-appropriate activities and teaching resources, for kids of all ages!
  • List of Optics and Photonics Societies
  • – A great collection of materials and resources for teachers. Contains both theoretical pedagogical materials as well as materials for in-class use.
  • Fiber Laser Application Transcript (PDF Format) – This transcript is of a presentation made during the PHOTON PBL July 2007 summer workshop at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. The presenter was Christian Greig of IPG Photonics Corporation. He explains the process of choosing a laser and the laser parameters for a new laser manufacturing process. It also provides an excellent lesson on fiber lasers for material processing.
  • Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You – A site focused on image galleries of different types of microscopes. Also has timelines for optics history and biographies of famous optical pioneers under the ‘Science, Optics and You’ section.
  • Making Learning Real – The Making Learning Real website is about Problem-Based Case Learning (PBCL), similar to Problem Based Learning (PBL) teaching methods. Contains classroom tools and other resources. A collaboration between Nashville State Community College and the WGBH Educational Foundation.
  • Virtual Physics Lab – A web-board of different optics related applets at National Taiwan Normal University. Free registration is required.
  • THS Laser Safety Rules (PDF format) – A handout on general laser safety rules developed by the photonics department at Tantasqua Regional High School.


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