Tutorial on Problem Based Learning

KWL as a Pre-Assessment Tool


Steps - Background - Socratic Taxonomy - Brainstorming - Research Plan - References

The KWL strategy is a comprehension device successfully utilized in reading classrooms for some time. For the purpose of pre-assessment, the traditional KWL strategy will be modified. The transfer of this strategy from Language Arts to the Science classroom as a research Plan of Action organizer is a positive movement. As we place students in the role of Student Researcher, it is wise to provide such a tool to aid in the construction of a knowledge base. It is, furthermore, an opportunity for the teacher to assess the prior knowledge and abilities with which the student(s) enter the classroom.

Stage 1

A simple Pre-Assessment tool will precede this KWL implementation. (See page following) Student will submit the Pre-Assessment for informal evaluation and maintain the document in their portfolios for evidence of their progress throughout the unit.

Stage 2

The implementation of KWL as a Journal option is a powerful strategy. As the student writes, metacognition is activated. Students are more apt to THINK as they write. The teacher, as facilitator, will present the problem (Sunny Times article) and document student responses to the KWL on large newsprint or the chalkboard.

The traditional KWL method is composed of these components:

K - What do the students already KNOW about the topic? (Brainstorm the products of the Pre-Assessment tool, allowing all students a voice in the process. Accept all responses.) When the item generating "energy" is depleted, save the information and create three columns on the chalkboard or other appropriate place.

W - What do the students NEED to know about the topic? (Mind Mapping is a strategy that may provide significant assistance as students attempt to separate fact from fiction.) Proceed to separate "facts" from "opinion" and place the facts in the "Know" column and the opinions in the "Need to Know" column.

L - What will the students LEARN or hope to learn (do and hope to do) about the topic? (Project Rubrics) These "learning issues" will evolve as the Mind Mapping, or other strategy, reveals "clusters" of information and/or skills needed to form the resolution to the problem. Associated with the content based learning issues are the considerations of technology and cooperative group behavior.

Stage 3

Implementation of the Plan of Action, research, refinement, and resolution.

Mind Mapping

A Mind Map is a graphic organizer, which will ease some of the "messiness" associated with the Engaged Learning process. Utilizing this strategy in conjunction with KWL, the skillful facilitator can help Student Research Teams separate fact from opinion, isolate key components for refining the "ill-structured problem", and develop a Plan of Action.

1. Mind maps can be modeled to the entire class using some generic topic such as "Natural Area". ( See example below) 2. Mind maps can ( and will) become messy. Note obvious overlaps below. Image a continuation of this map with non-human enemies eating a specific plant, but, in turn, providing a valuable assist to the plant as a mode of seed dispersal. Many expansion possibilities exist. 3. Students can use mind maps to define research sub-topics for individual Student Research Team members, facilitating team Action Plans. 4. Mind maps provide structure for the learning experience and should be carefully assessed by the Teacher/Facilitator.

NOTE: The Mind Map strategy serves as a graphic organizer to assist students in categorizing information. Teachers should use discretion and modify the strategy in a manner that best suits their style.