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Purposeful Engagement in Science Learning

The Project-based Approach

Kabba E. Colley

Purposeful Engagement in Science Learning provides a blueprint of how teachers and their students can engage in science learning that mirrors the way science is practiced. It is written for K–16 science educators as well as those in the informal science education sector. The framework for this book is based on the project cycle, which is consistent with the process of scientific inquiry. Chapter One reviews the historical, philosophical and psychological foundations of project-based scientific inquiry (PBSI) and the evolution of this approach in the U.S. Chapter Two examines and synthesizes the research on PBSI. Chapter Three explores how to plan PBSI and offers practical strategies for veteran and novice science educators alike. Chapter Four presents different strategies for implementing PBSI with particular emphasis on factors to consider, including the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. Chapter Five provides selected case histories of successful PBSI. Chapter Six deals with the different methods of evaluating and assessing students’ learning in PBSI environments and provides examples of performance-based assessments suitable for evaluating students’ learning. Chapter Seven examines the relationship between PBSI, after-school programs and community involvement. Finally, Chapter Eight identifies and describes relevant resources that could be used to support and enhance PBSI. This book is organized in a way that allows science educators to address the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), while at the same time, helping students learn science in ways that are relevant to their lives.
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Chapter 3. How to Plan for Project-based Science Instruction


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Chapter Overview

In order for teachers and their students to plan for PBSI, they must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the underlying principles or concepts of this instructional approach to science education. In addition, they must know what the various stages of PBSI are and the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and dispositions of teachers and students at each stage of the PBSI process. In this chapter, I will identify and describe the basic principles or concepts of PBSI. Then I will describe the main stages involved in PBSI. The main stages of PBSI include: (1) an orientation process, (2) identifying and defining a project, (3) planning, implementing, documenting, and reporting project findings, and (4) evaluating project learning, taking action, and/or proposing new projects. Collectively, these stages are referred to as the project cycle. This chapter will focus on the first three stages of the project cycle (i.e., orientation process, identifying and defining a project, and project planning). The other stages will be discussed in detail in chapter 4: “Implementing Project-based Science Instruction,” and chapter 6: “Evaluating Project-based Science Instruction.” ← 53 | 54 →

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