What are the PBL Projects?
The PBL Projects are a series of STEM problem-based learning curriculum and professional development projects funded by the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Each of the PBL Projects has developed a collection of authentic real world multimedia case studies called Challenges with industry and research university partners in the areas of optics and photonics, sustainable technologies, and advanced manufacturing.
Students engaged in the PBL Projects are charged with solving an open-ended real world industry-based problem. Students work in teams, have an opportunity to develop and test a prototype (if appropriate in their course of study), present their solutions to their peers,and learn of how the industry partner solved the same authentic problem. This process allows students to connect STEM concepts to the real world, get a feel for industry and new career fields, and compare and contrast their solution with that of an actual company.
Additionally, the PBL Projects provide professional development activities for secondary and post secondary STEM educators and teacher educators. The projects train instructors by hosting“learn by doing”workshops in which instructors experience the PBL process as a student. Participating instructors gain access to an archive of teachers’ resources and are introduced to implementation and assessment strategies for PBL. The PBL Challenges have been aligned to national science, math and technological literacy standards and the Common Core, and are available on the Internet for at no cost.
“Funded by a grant from the Advanced Technological Education program of the National Science Foundation (DUE #0603143) awarded to the New England Board of Higher Education (2006-2009)”
The goal of the PHOTON PBL Project was to create teaching materials using the PBL student-centered problem-solving method for teaching optics and photonics. The basic web-based multimedia Challenge structure was developed in this project and replicated and improved in subsequent projects.
PHOTON PBL Accomplishments:
- Created eight multimedia problem-based Challenges with accompanying instructional resources in optics/photonics technology, to complement the curriculum and laboratory materials developed during the PHOTON2 project.
- Developed and tested a “multiple measures” approach to student assessment for integration into the Challenges.
- Recruited and trained high school and community college physics and electronics technology instructors from more than 20 institutions to field-test the Challenges.
- Conducted quantitative and qualitative research on the efficacy of PBL in engineering technician education.
- Disseminated the successfully field-tested problem-based challenges and research findings to science and technology programs in high schools, community colleges
andfour-year colleges and universities.
STEM PBL: Problem-Based Learning for Sustainable Technology
Funded by a grant from the Advanced Technological Education program of the National Science Foundation (DUE #0903051) awarded to the New England Board of Higher Education (2009-2012)
The goals of the STEM PBL project were to increase the number of job-ready STEM workers by engaging high school and college students across the U.S. with challenging learning materials and innovative teaching method and to increase the number of middle school and high school teachers and two- and four-year college faculty skilled in the use of PBL in STEM education.
STEM PBL Project accomplishments:
- Developed six STEM-related multimedia PBL Challenges focused on sustainable technologies that are appealing to today’s students, such as alternative energy, environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, and lighting.
- Created and implemented a fifteen-week internet-based Principles and Applications of PBL professional development course for in-service STEM educators from across the U.S. using the STEM PBL Challenges.
- Developed a replicable one-semester course in PBL instructional methods at Central Connecticut State University for pre-service (middle and high school) science and engineering technology teachers.
- Conducted research on the efficacy of PBL in STEM education and adaptation methods used by participating STEM educators.
The Advanced Manufacturing PBL Project
Funded by a grant from the Advanced Technological Education program of the National Science Foundation (DUE #1204941) to the New England Board of Higher Education (2012-2015)
The goal of the Advanced Manufacturing PBL project was to produce more graduates prepared to fill the demand for workers in New England’s advanced manufacturing companies by contributing to the improvement of STEM education in New England while introducing students careers in to this high-tech manufacturing.
- Developed six authentic PBL Challenges (multimedia case studies) in collaboration with New England industry partners to bring into the classroom real-world problem-solving strategies used in advanced manufacturing fields such as aerospace, composite materials, medical devices, nanotechnology, optics, precision measurement and semiconductors and to promote the development of student problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Provided a series of professional development activities for secondary and post-secondary in-service science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators, as well as teacher education faculty.
- Developed new instructional materials for STEM teacher education programs in collaboration with Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) that serve pre- and in-service educators.
- Developed a template for instructors who want to make their own Challenges for their particular area of study
- Conducted research on the impact of using PBL as a teaching strategy.
Problem-Based Learning in Advanced Photonics Manufacturing
Funded by a grant from the Advanced Technological Education program of the National Science Foundation (DUE #1801115) to Springfield Technical Community College (2018-2021)
This three-year curriculum and faculty professional development project will increase the STEM pipeline of high school and community college students prepared and motivated to pursue careers in photonics technology through the use of problem-based learning (PBL) focused on advanced photonics manufacturing. The project will improve photonics technician education in the Northeast by developing a comprehensive series of interdisciplinary multimedia PBL instructional modules, or “Challenges,” focused on real-world issues in advanced photonics manufacturing faced by industry.
Working in partnership with advanced photonics manufacturing industry partners across New England and New York, the APM-PBL project will build upon the successful NSF-ATE PHOTON PBL, STEM PBL and AM-PBL projects of the New England Board of Higher Education projects to:
- Create 8 new multimedia PBL Challenges focused on real-world problems in advanced photonics manufacturing
- Provide professional development for high school, community and four-year college STEM educators across the Northeast in advanced photonics manufacturing applications, PBL pedagogy and classroom implementation strategies
- Develop a comprehensive recruitment strategy for increasing the pipeline of high school and community college students motivated and prepared to pursue career pathways in advanced photonics manufacturing, and
- Conduct scholarly research on the efficacy of PBL with regard to improving advanced photonics manufacturing education in the Northeast.