problem-based learning: preparing learners for the 21st century

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Texas Libraries]On: 19 November 2014, At: 16:41Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Health EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

    Problem-Based Learning: Preparing Learners for the21st CenturyTracey Shadday MPH, CHESPublished online: 25 Feb 2013.

    To cite this article: Tracey Shadday MPH, CHES (1999) Problem-Based Learning: Preparing Learners for the 21st Century,Journal of Health Education, 30:6, 369-371, DOI: 10.1080/10556699.1999.10604660

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  • Preparing Problem-Based Learning:

    Learners for the 2 1 st Century Trucey Shudduy

    Preparing students to make good deci- sions regarding health is the primary goal of health education. Yet many classroom teachers, focused on raising student achievement, emphasize the mastery of national and state standards and fail to make health education a real priority. Of- ten the curriculum does not prepare stu- dents to tackle problems requiring critical thinking and problem-solving skills. How- ever, educators can address academic re- quirements in the context of important health issues through the use of an inte- grated curriculum that places students in the center of real-world problems that challenge learning and invite multiple per- spectives. Students can become equipped to confront their own beliefs and become more confident in dealing with the prob- lems they will face in the 21st century.

    Problem-based learning (PBL) is a cur- ricular model that integrates subject mat- ter around one central issue. It is designed to teach students how to deal with authen- tic problems such as obesity or consump- tion of alcohol during pregnancy. It has been used for years in medical schools and has emerged as an effective teaching tool in other settings where individuals must become prepared to apply higher-level thinking to new situations and contexts (Delisle, 1997).

    This strategy differs from more tradi- tional approaches to learning. There is an emphasis on thinking rather than accumu- lating facts. Students become acquainted with the problem-solving process while us- ing real-world content related to the issue. They take the control of learning; research is directed by their own need to define the

    problem. As students take ownership in the learning process, they develop knowledge and understanding relevant to the problem; the result is an increased ability to retain and retrieve the information (McTighe & Schollenberger, 1991).

    Often educators demand that students demonstrate their learning through paper- and-pencil tasks such as essays, exams, or re- ports. These measures of learning are lim- ited in their evaluation of a students under- standing, and do not reflect the different strengths of the student. In addition, they do not test that understanding in real-world ap- plications. PBL, on the other hand, allows students to demonstrate their learning through an authentic, observable presenta- tion of knowledge and competence (Florida Department of Education, 1995). A product or performance demonstration immerses the learner in activities requiring the use of con- tent and skills to be mastered through per- formance of authentic roles. For example, if a class is studying the problem of the nutri- tional value of food offered in the school caf- eteria, they can be asked to organize a pre- sentation that proposes a plan to provide stu- dents with delicious, nutritious meals within the schools budget. This demonstration would require students to become nutrition- ists, surveyors, statisticians, accountants, writers, and presenters. If possible, they would make their presentation before an authentic audience of stakeholders.

    This approach unites the various disci- plines, providing an environment of com- prehensive learning. Typically, students switch subjects throughout the day. They experience the various disciplines in isola- tion, making it difficult to make connec-

    tions, organize new information, and un- derstand the relevant applications of skills learned. Using PBL, a health teacher can coordinate with the math teacher, science teacher, English teacher, and art teacher to plan an integrated study on skin cancer pre- vention. The math teacher could ask stu- dents to survey the student body to find their knowledge of SPF (sun protection fac- tor) facts and the association between skin cancer and sun exposure. An exploration of the difference between W A and W B light would be a correlated science topic. The art teacher could assist students in the design and development of bulletin boards display- ing safe sun behaviors. In English, students could create pamphlets providing informa- tion to primary care providers, parents of young children, and administrators of day care centers about exposure risks and rec- ommendations for protection.

    This strategy not only addresses the need to focus academic time on standards, but also provides an authentic and comprehen- sive approach to health education. Student learning is reinforced throughout the day in a variety of ways. To be effective, health education interventions must be compre- hensive, innovative, and interdisciplinary (Vail-Smith et al., 1997).

    Teachers using PBL take on the role of curriculum designer, guide, and evaluator. They decide what outcomes, content, and skills will be addressed during study of the

    Tracey Shadday, MPH, CHES, is an instructor for Hillsborough Countys gifted endorsement courses and teaches gifed science at Mabry El- ementary, 4201 Estrella, Tampa, FL 33629; (813)872-5364,




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  • problem, but they do not provide a lot of direct teaching. Their role is behind the scenes, helping students locate needed re- sources and guiding them through each step of the process. They provide minilessons on required content and processes for acquir- ing that content. In the middle and final stages of the process, teachers evaluate the end product or performance, using student/ teacher-created rubrics (Delisle, 1997).

    Grade Level This strategy is appropriate for develop-

    ers of health curriculum and individuals re- sponsible for preparing future health edu- cators. However, it is particularly effective for teachers in self-contained classrooms and for those who plan and coordinate units of study with teachers from various disci- plines. Problem-based learning is appropri- ate for all grade levels; the problems stud-

    ied are adapted to the needs and interests of the students.

    Procedure Planning Phase

    Begin with a problem or issue that con- nects with your students' world. It should be rooted in the subject matter of the cur- riculum, meet key curriculum goals, facili- tate skill development, and build critical thinking skills (Delisle,1997; Savoie & Hughes, 1994). Teachers of health would naturally choose from among the wide va- riety of contemporary problems that affect their students. There are many sources for problems or issues to study; one need only look in the newspaper or health journals to find a plethora of issues such as the effects of secondhand smoke, confidentiality of test results for HIV, abuse of accessible drugs such as alcohol and ephedrine (Fogarty,

    1997). Problems should be open-ended and ill structured.

    After deciding on the problem or issue for study, analyze and define the underly- ing problem. Create a key question or prob- lem statement that summarizes that prob- lem. This key question will focus your stu- dents' efforts throughout the project.

    Create a real-life scenario that briefly describes a situation and gives a few key facts about the problem or issue. It may be presented with a particular bias. The sce- nario could take the form of a news clip or a teacher-created fax or memo