Enhancing PBL authenticity by engaging STEM professional volunteers

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Celeste Nicholas
J. Adam Scribner


The article profiles a project addressing a central issue in reform-driven STEM education – the need to align educational experiences with real-world STEM. We profile an interdisciplinary project which aimed for authenticity by: 1) purposefully designing an authentic PBL project and 2) incorporating STEM professional volunteers as facilitators. Volunteers enhanced authentic elements of the project task (e.g., open-ended task, accountability) and context (e.g., autonomy, collaboration). Volunteers alleviated pedagogical barriers to PBL – their expertise allowed both volunteers and teachers to take up the facilitator roles foundational to PBL. Professional volunteers can play vital roles in STEM capacity-building initiatives, including those seeking to broaden participation. Further research is needed to understand how to best prepare and utilize volunteers in a variety of classroom roles, including as PBL facilitators.

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