• Problem-Based Learning at District 41

    PBL As a way to align real-world work and exploration into the classroom, teachers in District 41 intentionally integrate problem solving into curriculum through Problem-Based Learning. Problem-based learning enhances the opportunities our students have to be critical thinkers, to collaborate, to create, and to communicate their thinking. As John Dewey once said, “We only think when confronted with a problem.” All schools in District 41 embrace learning environments which are problem-based and solution driven and rooted in inquiry. PBL experiences are built around three key concepts: transformative process, constructive problem solving and real-world engagement. Ideas for PBL can come from all over: teachers, students, business, industry, and the media.
    One of the most exciting parts of PBL is when students engage with organizations and business leaders. Students present their ideas, receive feedback and defend their solutions. Partners from business, industry, and universities may co-teach with teachers, work with students, sit on panels, mentor, bring forward real-world problems for our students to grapple with, and to share ideas for curriculum.

    » Learning Research 

    Transdisciplinary Learning

    Teachers incorporate the lenses that individuals would typically explore in the real-world: cultural, social, political, economic, historical, and scientific. District 41 has structures in place to support transdisciplinary learning, most notably the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) curriculum which incorporates the NGSS standards. STEAM skills are vital for success in the 21st century and critical to our collective future. The “Critical C’s” of Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity are emphasized through PBL, usually through transdisciplinary perspectives.

    Engineering Design

    Engineering is a key skill often used in PBLs. Engineering is the convergence and application of all disciplines, and cannot stand on its own without rich content. Engineering contributes to what all students should know in preparation for their individual lives and for their roles as citizens in this technology-rich and scientifically complex world. Engagement in engineering design is as much a part of learning science as engagement in the practices of science. Engaging students in engineering can also spark students’ curiosity, capture their interest and motivate them to go deeper. The work of engineers is a creative endeavor, one that has deeply affected the world they live in; students will see that engineering contributes to meeting many of the major challenges that confront society today, such as generating sufficient energy, preventing and treating disease, maintaining supplies of fresh water and food, and addressing climate change.


    Through PBL, students have the opportunity to be empowered individuals, entrepreneurs and future business owners. The goal is to fully prepare students to bring an entrepreneurial spirit and skills to their endeavors, whether commercial, philanthropic, educational, or service oriented.

    As a way to align real-world work and exploration into the classroom, teachers in District 41 intentionally integrate problem solving into curriculum through Problem-Based Learning.
    About Problem-Based Learning & Inquiry

    Problem-Based Learning aligns to authentic, real-world work and exploration and is appropriate at all grades levels. Problem-based learning is rooted in planned units and only thrives when it is connected to authentic learning. Inquiry involves the science, art and spirit of curiosity. Effective inquiry is more than just asking questions.

    This is what PBL looks like in the classroom:
    • Learning is driven by challenging, open-ended practical problems worthy of the attention of experts in a particular field of study
    • Students generally work in collaborative groups
    • Teachers spend more time facilitating learning than delivering information
    • PBL enhances content knowledge and fosters communication, problem-solving and self- directed learning skills
    • Students advocate for their solution by comparing it to solutions of experts in the field and those of their peers
    • Students solve problems through various methods while working collaboratively to identify the strengths and flaws of their ideas and ultimately choosing to put forth the strongest idea
    • Students work with experts in the field and authentic field experiences
    • Student learning is based on the students learning and applying the Illinois State Standards and the Common Core in an authentic learning environment

    “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
    -John Dewey

    If you have any questions, or need more information, please contact:
    Dr. Kris Webster.  Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning, & Accountability
    EMAIL or call 630.534.7206