NSM Faculty Team Attends Project-Based Learning Institute

Five enthusiastic faculty members from the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics attended the Institute for Project-Based Learning (PBL) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute this June. They returned eager to implement PBL activities in each of their classes this academic year, and have already shared what they have learned with like-minded colleagues in Engineering who have also attended the Institute.

The team consisted of Erika Trigoso, Dept of Geography and the Environment; Nancy Lorenzon, Dept of Biological Sciences; Thomas French, Dept of Mathematics; Julie Morris, Dept of Biological Sciences and Keith Miller, Dept of Chemistry.

WPI’s Center for Project-Based Learning is renowned for its expertise in this method of teaching. Project-Based Learning is a teaching approach where students learn not only content and technical skills, but also develop complex thinking and professional skills by working through simulated or real-life projects and problems in small groups.

The faculty team spent their days engaged in PBL activities as students, sharing and discussing teaching strategies such as scaffolding activities and facilitating student teams, and creating an action plan. Through their plan, “Pioneering Project Based Learning,” they aim to establish and nurture PBL opportunities in STEM courses throughout DU.

“A long-term objective is to develop and connect multi-disciplinary opportunities, such that some students would be able complete a series of PBL courses during their undergraduate studies at the university.  In support of DU’s vision to be ‘a great private university dedicated to the public good,’ we seek to provide relevant content in context with society needs.”

These faculty members already have solid plans to not only develop, implement and assess PBL activities in their own courses, but also to develop a meaningful toolkit for other faculty that will facilitate the implementation of PBL activities in a diverse array of courses.

The team was able to attend this Institute through the collaborative support of the Office of Teaching and Learning and the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The NSM group is meeting regularly with faculty from the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. RSECS faculty members have attended the WPI in the past and have also brought WPI speakers to DU.