Designing a Technology-Based Science Lesson: Student Teachers Grapple with an Authentic Problem of Practice

By McAleenan Butler, Susan; Wiebe, Eric N. | Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Designing a Technology-Based Science Lesson: Student Teachers Grapple with an Authentic Problem of Practice


McAleenan Butler, Susan, Wiebe, Eric N., Journal of Technology and Teacher Education


This project used techniques from problem-based learning to aid students in developing a technology-based science lesson. In this case, the "problem" students were asked to solve, was that of combining curriculum knowledge and pedagogical skills to incorporate computer graphics animation technology within a science lesson and then teach the lesson to secondary students. Student artifacts as well as field notes kept by the researchers, minutes of research meetings, and written reflections from the researchers all served as data sources. Final assertions supported by the data were: (a) insufficient class time was devoted to the project, (b) lessons taught using the computer graphics technology were effective in teaching science concepts, (c) the pairing of content area specialists and graphics specialists proved to be the most successful organization for project groups, and (d) the student teachers displayed positive attitudes towards the use of multimedia presentations in the classroom. Researcher conclusions recommended the continuation of the project in an effort to increase the implementation of technology within the classroom, especially since a large majority of students showed improved achievement in science after the graphics-enhanced lessons. One important implication drawn from the project was the ability of the preservice teachers to positively influence the use of technology by the cooperating teachers.

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PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING

The project described in this article used techniques from problem-based learning to aid students in developing a technology-based science lesson. In brief, the steps in the problem-based learning (PBL) process begin with an authentic problem. This problem is presented to students in the "meet-the-problem" documentation. The problem becomes more defined as students separate known facts about the problem topic from unknown issues and capture their thoughts on a "know/need to know" board. A problem statement or research question is then written. Data collection to illuminate unknowns begins and group analysis of these data are now incorporated into the process. After several cycles of data collection and analysis, possible solutions to the problem are formulated. The potential solutions are examined in the light of all the evidence collected and the most viable solution is then selected. The PBL experience culminates with the public sharing of the solution followed by a debriefing session (Figure 1).

The university supervisor used these PBL techniques with the student teachers to support them during the design of a technology-based lesson plan. Creating lesson plans is a problematic activity for all beginning teachers who must grapple with such design problems as:

* What content should I teach before this topic?

* How long should I spend on this topic?

* What instructional activities will best support the teaching of this topic?

* How will I assess student knowledge of the topic before and after instruction?

The PBL steps provided a framework for addressing these questions and encouraged student teachers to work together to find viable answers to the design questions.

    In this case, the "problem" students were asked to solve, was that
    of combining curriculum knowledge and pedagogical skills to
    incorporate technology within a science lesson. PBL techniques were
    employed because: problems give rise to epistemic curiosity that
    will, in turn trigger the cognitive processes of accessing prior
    knowledge, establishing a problem space, searching for new
    information, and reconstructing information into knowledge that
    both fits into and shapes new mental models. In this sense,
    learning is not an accumulation of information, but a transformation
    of the individual who is moving toward full membership in the
    professional community" (Evensen & Hmelo, 2000, p. 

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