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1. Read and analyze the problem scenario:

  • Discuss the scenario with your team.
  • Don't be tempted to start thinking about potential solutions or to start looking for information

2. List hypotheses, ideas, or hunches:

  • With the little that you know, what do you think will happen?
  • List your ideas or hypotheses on the Student Activity Sheet.

3. List what you already know:

  • Begin your list with the information contained in the scenario.
  • Add knowledge shared by other group members.
  • Record this information under the heading: "What do we know?" on the Student Activity Sheet.

4. List what is unknown:

  • Prepare a list of questions your group thinks need to be answered to solve the problem.
  • Record them under the heading: "What do we need to know?" on the Student Activity Sheet.

5. List what needs to be done:

  • List possible actions to be taken under the heading: "What should we do?" on the Student Activity Sheet. Such actions may include questioning an expert, getting online data, or visiting a library to find answers to the questions developed in Step 4.
  • Prioritize the questions you are going to seek answers to, then divide up the questions among your team.

6. Develop a problem statement:

  • A problem statement is a one- or two-sentence idea that clearly identifies what your team is trying to solve, produce, respond to, test, or find out.
  • Record your statement on the Student Activity Sheet.

7. Gather information:

  • You and your team will gather, organize, analyze, and interpret information from multiple sources.
  • Exchange ideas; think about solutions; weigh alternatives; and consider the pros and cons of potential courses of action.
  • Record your information and resources on the on the Student Activity Sheet.

8. Present findings:

  • Prepare a report or presentation in which you and your group make recommendations, predictions, inferences, or other appropriate resolutions of the problem. Write an outline on your Student Activity Sheet.
  • Be prepared to support your positions. If appropriate, consider a multimedia presentation using images, graphics, or sound.

NOTE: The steps in this model may have to be completed several times. Steps 2-6 may be conducted concurrently (at the same time), as new information becomes available. As more information is gathered, the problem statement may be refined or altered.

NOTE: When using the PBL model, the teacher acts more as a coach in helping students investigate the problem. To that end, resources relevant to students' research follow the Activity. Teachers may provide these resources to students or have them develop their own list.

Teacher's Guide

I. AIM Mission Objectives
II. Key Questions for Students
III. Problem-Solving Model
IV. Materials and Procedures


A: Sample Student Activity Sheet
B: Assessment Rubric
C: National Science Education Standards

PBL Navigation

> PBL Scenario
> Atmospheric Gravity Waves
> Cosmic Dust
> Mesosphere
> Polar Mesospheric Clouds
> Polar Orbiting Satellites

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