SESP Faculty and Project-Based Learning

SESP Faculty and Project-Based Learning

The fictitious Dr. Mack begins her investigation, but students must take over to solve the mystery in "Disease Detectives."

Image courtesy of the center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools.

SESP's Learning Sciences faculty are well on the way to the goal line for project-based learning in science: producting educational materials that allow students to study science the way real-life scientists do and to make their own discoveries rather than memorizing dull facts.

Through project-based science curricula, students "buy in" to a driving question such as "What is the water quality like in my river?" or "How can we make our school building more energy efficient?" and in the process learn scientific principles in an exciting way.

For several years Daniel Edelson, Brian Reiser, Uri Wilensky, Louis Gomez, Bruce Sherin and David Danker have been involved in the development of project-based science curricula. These include Investigating Questions about our World through Science and technology, an interdisciplinary middle school science curriculum; Modeling Across the Curriculum; Looking at the Enrinment, a research-based environmental science high school curriculum; and Disease Detectives, for high school biology students who use scientific principles to discover what's ailing a town's population.

Recognizing the unique opportunity for research that these curriculum development porjects offer, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant for the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS), to a consortium comprised of Northwestern, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. One of only two dozen NSF Centers for Learning and Teaching, the overarching purpose of CCMS is to reverse the troubling national trend in science illiteracy.

The Center's research agenda focuses on the following issues: defining science learning goals; building pedagogical supports and incorporating technologies into instructional materials; encouraging student investigations and serving diverse learners.