PBL Learning Meets Case-Based Reasoning in the Middle School Science Classroom: Putting Learning by Design Into Practice

By Kari Clase1, Peg A Ertmer1

1. Purdue University

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This article tells the story of the design of Learning by Design™ (LBD), a project- based inquiry approach to science learning with roots in case-based reasoning and problem-based learning, pointing out the theoretical contributions of both, classroom issues that arose upon piloting a first attempt, ways we addressed those challenges, lessons learned about promoting learning taking a project-based inquiry approach, and lessons learned about taking a theory-based approach to designing learning environments. LBD uses what we know about cognition to fashion a learning environment appropriate to deeply learning science concepts and skills and their applicability, in parallel with learning cognitive, social, learning, and communication skills. Our goal, in designing LBD, was to lay the foundation in middle school for students to be successful thinkers, learners, and decisionmakers throughout their lives and especially to help them begin to learn the science they need to know to thrive in the modern world. LBD has students learn science in the context of achieving design-and-build challenges. Included in LBD's framework is a set of ritualized and sequenced activities that help teachers and students acclimate to the culture of a highly collaborative, learner-centered, inquiry-oriented, and design-based classroom. Those ritualized activities help teachers and students learn the practices of scientists, engineers, and group members in ways that they can use outside the classroom. LBD is carefully crafted to promote deep and lasting learning, but we have learned that careful crafting is not enough for success in putting a collaborative inquiry approach into practice. Also essential are fostering a collaborative classroom culture in which students want to be engaged in deep learning and where the teacher sees herself as both a learner and a facilitator of learning, trusts that with her help the students can learn, and enthusiastically assumes the roles she needs to take on.


Janet L. Kolodner, Paul J. Camp, David Crismond, Barbara
Fasse, Jackie Gray, Jennifer Holbrook, Sadhana Puntambekar,
and Mike Ryan
EduTech Institute and College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Kari Clase; Peg A Ertmer (2012), "PBL Learning Meets Case-Based Reasoning in the Middle School Science Classroom: Putting Learning by Design Into Practice," https://stemedhub.org/resources/799.

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