A Problem-Based Approach to Teaching about Pollution
Science is a very important subject for students to study in middle school. It is “More than a body of knowledge or a set of answers, science is a way of thinking about the world” (Beamon 20). Science forces students to think critically about ethical issues, such as pollution. This is often difficult for students because they must make the jump from the narrow parameters of their own lives to the issues that affect many people living on this planet. In studying pollution, students must come to realize that even throwing garbage on the ground and not recycling will in some way affect many of the living things in the ecosystem.
The feeling commonly described by students by the words “I hate science” is often the result of science frustrating them. One reason why students might feel this way is that there are two types of sciences. One is “school science”, which has in many cases become a listing of facts and definitions, and the other is “real science”, which is what scientists practice. Maybe the students spend too much time on “school science” and do not make the connection between what is learned in science class and the world around them. The teacher’s job is not only to make the science material manageable for the students to learn, but it is also to show the students how science applies to everyone and everything. Using the problem-based learning approach is a great way for a teacher to combine these two sciences (Uyeda et al. 24). It is the key that a teacher uses to open the door to the minds of students who need to know how what they are learning applies to the real world.
Problem-based learning as an instructional model is associated with the new learning-centered paradigm. PBL, in general, encourages the students to develop deep understanding within a knowledge domain and problem solving skills by engaging them in the learning process with activities in which they solve real world, authentic problems (Kim et al. 2).
According to Howard Barrows, a neuroscientist and one of the founders of PBL, the authenticity of the problem maximizes student motivation. Thus, PBL motivates students so they can learn by working through a problem. Traditionally, teachers were more focused on teaching the facts and then presenting the problems associated with those facts (Uyeda et al. 25). However, “Disciplined inquiry is not about memorizing information; it is about helping young adolescents make meaningful connections to the ‘big idea’ of the disciplines and their own personal beliefs, conceptions, and experiences” (Beamon 19). An effective science teacher puts the students’ minds in the middle of real problems. He or she challenges his or her students to use the knowledge that they already have and combine it with research to come up with solutions. A middle school student must learn about pollution, but how they learn about it will likely dictate how long the...