Navigating Problem-Based Learning Across Content Areas: A Mixed-Methods Examination of English Learner Insights of Support and Participation
Kuo, Annie Camey
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This mixed methods dissertation examined adolescent English learner experiences with problem-based learning in mainstream content-area high school classrooms. The research focused on three aspects of the English learner experience with problem-based learning: expectations of support from peers and instructors, participation and positioning in collaborative activities, and the affective factors and potential opportunities in mainstream math, science, and social studies classrooms. With limited research examining the English experience with problem-based learning in mainstream high school classrooms, I used Cultural Learning Pathways (Bell et al. 2013) as the conceptual framework to highlight expectations, positions, and sociomaterial arrangements and practices in the classroom. Findings showed that problem-based learning is vastly differently from the banking model pedagogy (Freire, 1970) that English learners are often familiar with from prior academic experiences. Additionally, because of the shift in sociocultural shifts in the classroom, English learners expected supports from their peers and instructors to navigate the culture and activities associated with problem-based learning. English learners worked intensively to learn content through a language they were still in the process of acquiring. Reflexive English learner self-positioning during collaborative activities varied across classroom contexts. And interactive positioning by their teachers was based on the teachers’ negative or positive interpretation of participation in the mainstream classrooms. Lastly, motivation, anxiety, and attitude were salient affective variables in the English learners experience with problem-based learning in their mainstream classes. There is potential for problem-based learning to be engaging for English learners if it is connected to their interests and leverages their prior knowledge and experience. The implications for this work include increasing teacher and administrator awareness of the English learner population during the design and implementation of problem-based learning, making explicit the components and potential benefits of problem-based learning, and building community in the classroom to facilitate collaborative group work. Most importantly, teacher and administrators must look beyond the English learner label to understand and leverage the rich cultural and linguistic knowledge, as well as, the life experiences, these students bring into the classroom.
- Education - Seattle