The students of Secondary 2 Technology have just completed a bridge building project based on the “Problem Based Learning” approach. This methodology puts the students at the forefront as they find themselves making decisions based on their own research, guiding their own project and running into learning opportunities (or problems…) along the way.
The essential elements we always try to include in problem based learning in the Technology subject are:
- the opportunity to work freely with curriculum content
- the development of 21st century skills
- a student voice and student choice at each project stage
- driving questions to encourage in depth enquiry
- self, peer and guided reflection time
- an audience presented product
Step 1: The problem is assigned
The students received this project proposal to design a new bridge for the Guadalquivir in Seville. This, along with an evaluation rubric from their teachers, formed the starting point of what turned out to be quite an involving journey.
In contrast to project based learning, which is highly instructional, problem based learning requires the students to figure out a lot of what they are going to learn on their own. There is no one correct answer and the process “empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem.
Step 2: Identify what we need to know.
At the beginning of the first term the students of S2 worked to understand and apply the problem solving process: Define, Prepare, Try, Reflect. In this project they got the chance to put much of what they learned into practice. First things first the students had to define each part of the problem for themselves- where is its intended location? So, what’s the scale? What’s the proportion between length and width? How can the aesthetics reflect the city of Seville? How can it move? How can the aesthetics reflect Seville?
The teachers were on hand to guide the students and offer hints and advice and of course to keep things on track, but mainly the students looked to their peers for ideas and solutions.
Gallery of student sketches
Step 3: Learn and Apply
Throughout their project the students had to research and document their progress. They ran up against deadlines and planning issues, they tried to overcome group problems and improve their design. Independent study was one of the most important aspects of this part of the project and students had to apply their own knowledge and experience to each eventuality.
Researching and designing
The students presented their designs to other students, in S2 or in P2. This was another learning opportunity as the students reflected on what had gone right and what they would have changed, not just in design and materials, but more importantly in the way they approached the problems and how they worked with others.
Student documentation videos…