Using Current Science Research to Inspire PBL Units for Gifted Kids
Using Current Science Research to Inspire PBL Units for Gifted Kids
PUBLISHED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Lacy Compton

With the emphasis on 21st-century skills and growing expertise in gifted students, problem-based learning (PBL) units have the potential to teach kids global skills while helping them creatively solve real-world problems. Such units introduce a "fuzzy" or ill-structured problem--one that doesn't have enough information included to be solved. Students then use research skills, critical and creative thinking, and other skills to help determine their solution to the problem. The best part? A good PBL unit doesn't have a set solution--PBL units allow students to self-direct their learning. It's a flexible alternative to learning that taps into kids' love of open-ended problems.

How can teachers implement this type of strategy in the classroom? Start by reading this article, "Problem-Based Learning 101," by Shelagh Gallagher, one of the gurus of this method of teaching. Then, why not look into current research and "problems" real scientists are facing as inspiration for writing your own PBL units? Some stories you might read for inspiration include:

These are just some ideas for inspiring your own fuzzy problems. Whatever course you take, don't forget to throw some kickers in for the students--side problems that might shake up their discoveries and cause them to rethink the solution paths they were building. For example, with the bee problem, you might have a group of parents of children highly allergic to bees protest having new fauna planted in local parks that contain public playgrounds. Students have to weigh these opinions and determine how they affect their plans.

For some ready-made PBL units, check out Prufrock's Mystery DiseaseMystery River, and Mystery at Golden Ridge Farm.