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Hello and welcome to my blog. It is here that I will be working through various discussion topics related to technology, learning, and most importantly the creation of meaningful and relevant student instruction. I openly welcome your comments, and hope that my insights and presented information works to inspire and assist fellow educators in the effective integration of technology.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Project-based Learning and Hypotheses: An Effective Thinking Adventure!

As society’s ever-expanding love affair with technology continues to blossom the growing influence of technological innovation and its role within student instruction in today’s classrooms continues to be a hot topic of discussion. Clearly the changing nature of business necessitates the purposeful use of technology-based activities in the classroom consequently teachers need to adjust the manner in which they approach the effective development and delivery of classroom instruction.  Through their actions to actively recognize the full instructional potential of educational technology teachers are now making the pedagogical shift necessary to positively affect student achievement.  Now in making these instructional changes teachers must remain cognizant of the need to use of a variety of instructional strategies with students up to and including constructionist theory based strategies involving project-based, problem-based, or inquiry-based approaches. In examining the features of classroom instruction involving project-based learning it is important to note that the foundation of this instructional strategy is, as Han & Bhattacharya (2001) note, built on Jean Piaget’s theory of constructivist learning which asserts that “knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but actively constructed in the mind of the learner” within a meaningful context.  In working to link this theoretical definition with the effective creation of learning tasks involving the generating and testing of hypotheses opportunities do undoubtedly exist for teachers to actively engage students in prediction or ‘what if’ type tasks entailing the construction of personal knowledge. 

In examining the attributes of effective constructionist instruction some teachers may lack experience with project-based learning and are consequently left wondering why they should adopt this method of teaching.  The simple answer, according to online project-based website Edutopia (2011) is that “project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying.  In building upon this description the use of project-based learning experiences encourages students and affords them the opportunity to be effectively guided through the investigation and learning process.  Within project-based instruction students are encouraged to ask high-quality questions, generate hypotheses and predictions, observe and evaluate information, and finally, as Orey notes, generate some form of external artefact which demonstrates understanding and is able to be effectively shared with others as a means of demonstrating growth in learning (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Now given the ever increasing focus on effective technology integration and the use of real-world learning experiences, upon reviewing a selection of online project-based learning websites including Edutopia: Project Learning, Project-Based Learning: The Online Resource for PBL, and NASA Solar System Simulator it is apparent that technology can assist teachers in linking instruction with students’ innate curiosity about their surroundings and how things operate. 
Obviously the use of technology such as these web-based resources further enhances the refinement of 21st century skills and works to encourage students to learn with technology as opposed to from technology.  Now this desired learning shift, as Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski (2007) note, facilitates students incorporating personal knowledge into the technology-based decision-making process whereby they are able to see the possible outcomes of their personal hypotheses within virtual situations capable of providing “incredibly engaging learning environments, resulting in increased [student] motivation and retention in learning” (p.212).  Glazer (2001) echoes this research when noting how project-based resources offer students opportunities to purposefully generate and test hypotheses by allowing them to “examine evidence about a particular topic and then respond to an issue or make a decision from a particular point of view”.  Now generally when people hear the word hypothesis their minds may or may not automatically zoom off to the realm of scientific discovery, however Pitler et al. (2007) notes that this is not necessarily the case and that in fact the strategic development of hypotheses “is applicable to all content areas” (p.202).  In using hypotheses as an instructional strategy the generating process builds upon the foundation of constructionism within project-based learning by effectively enhancing students’ interactions with information and promoting, as Orey observes, the first-hand application of knowledge in the creation of learning artifacts (Laureate Education,, Inc., 2011).  In developing project-based scenarios involving hypotheses students are actively engaged in higher order thinking requiring them to make predictions, explain their learning, and then draw and express conclusions based upon their findings.  This meaningful interaction with information throughout the completion of the task assists students in linking pre-existing and newly introduced information.

Clearly when implemented efficiently project-based learning involving hypothesizing draws on the inherent motivation of student curiosity, offers an element of challenge, and provides the higher level ‘thinking’ experiences needed to empower students to become active consumers of information capable of tackling real-world problems through critical problem-solving and group collaboration.  In getting students actively thinking about the information they are examining, whether with or without the use of technology, teachers are able to encourage the development of meaningful learning connections and the proficient recall of information by their students.  In closing the use of hypotheses in conjunction with constructivist instruction challenges students with meaningful activities designed to, as Glazer (2001) concludes, “address broader learning goals that focus on preparing students for active and responsible citizenship” - which is ultimately what effective teaching, is all about.


Edutopia. (2012). What Works in Education.  The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning.

Glazer, E. (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/.

Han, S., and Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Trevor,

    Project based learning can definitely be used in other content areas than science. The examples in the text showed how to test hypotheses in math and social studies. What has been your experience in implementing constructionist methods? How do you plan for all of the variables?


  2. Trevor says...

    Hi Kate,

    Not sure if it came through in my post but I am huge proponent of constructionist teaching and the use of project, problem, and inquiry based instruction. In working with my teachers I always encourage the use of a variety of instructional strategies including constructionist theory due in large part to the instructional value that can be gained by students in having actively participated in the creation of a learning artefact, be it something physical or the collaboratively designed solution to a challenging real-world based problem. I have been fortunate in that both my current and former school districts have actively worked towards the consistent use of constructivist theory/constructionist learning within all schools so I have been able to get a good dose of first-hand knowledge and application experience.

    In relation to your question regarding planning the key is involving the students in the learning process from start to finish. As the teacher you can work to initially identify the learning standards you want targeted and develop an essential question to guide student learning but beyond that the input of students is more or less the essence of constructionist learning - i.e. the students begin to formulate plans and collaboratively decide how best to go about achieving the intended goal; they work in conjunction with the teacher to begin identifying assessment criteria and developing rubrics; and ultimately they work to decide what constitutes measurable success. Now teaching in this manner can undoubtedly be challenging as the teacher is now more guide than leader (which offers a new set of unique obstacles which lessen through continued experience) but it is worth it come the end as the demonstrated student learning generally involves a higher level of thought and originality not to mention the increased opportunity for cross-curricular integration.

    Thanks again for your comments.


  3. Hi Trevor,

    In your post you said, "in developing project-based scenarios involving hypotheses students are actively engaged in higher order thinking requiring them to make predictions, explain their learning, and then draw and express conclusions based upon their findings" (Henderson,2012). This is a very true statement because making predictions, expressing their thoughts by explaining their findings while they make conclusive deductions goes way beyond rote memory as the children have been able to collect the facts, analyze them, connect them to each other and apply them in the quest to find a new meaning thus fulfilling the Higher Order Thinking (HOT) in bloom's Taxonomy.

    Great post.


  4. Cooperative learning can be a wonderful way to integrate many different subjects. In our county we are moving away from standards and more to common core. Within common core we can have the chance to do so much more cooperative groups. Now it is not just reading in the reading block and math in the math block but teaching all day. There is also a heavy push for integrating technology within these subjects. And as Damilola state it also helps them meet the requirements of Bloom's and pushes for rigor.

    I know some teachers at my school are very apprehensive about using group projects in there class however, if they knew how much a student could gain from these projects I think they may change their minds. Sounds like you are doing just that Trevor.. Keep it up!