Problem-Based Learning for Responsive and Transformative Teacher Professional Development

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Tom J. McConnell
Joyce M. Parker
Jan Eberhardt


Educational reform should include teacher professional development (PD) to help educators learn how to implement new programs. This article shares a research-tested model of PD that uses the analytic framework of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) to support professional learning. Evidence suggests that PBL is effective in changing content knowledge and pedagogical practice. To teach content, facilitators engage teachers in learning activities designed using common PBL structures. Stories about authentic phenomena present problems associated with specific concepts. Learners work in groups to analyze problems, seek additional information, and construct plausible solutions. This same approach can support Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to help teachers examine and revise their own teaching. In this model, teachers collaborate to identify “problems of teaching.” The group uses PBL to analyze information and solutions. Teachers research teaching strategies, test a proposed strategy, and analyze evidence to build new understandings of teaching.


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Author Biographies

Tom J. McConnell, Ball State University

Tom J. McConnell ( is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Biology at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

Joyce M. Parker, Michigan State University

Joyce M. Parker is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

Jan Eberhardt

Jan Eberhardt is an Assistant Director (emerita) of the Division of Mathematics and Science Education at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.