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Utah State University Library

Doing more with PBL: Lesson Plan: Constructing a Topic Using PBL

This is a collection of materials relating to the presentation given at LOEX of the West 2012 by Kacy Lundstrom and Erin Davis, Reference & Instruction Librarians at Utah State University. Permission granted for educational use.

Preliminary Reading


Use these questions to help get you thinking.  You don't have to answer them all - just use them as a jumping off point for some possible problems you could use as the basis for your research topic.

Where would you like to see change? What's broken or needs a solution?  Is there a decision that needs to be made that could be improved by learning more about it first? 

At home - 

At work - 

At school -

In your hobbies and areas of expertise -

In the news -

Articulating the Problem

These elements can help you begin to construct the problem that faces you now (or in the future you envision for yourself). As you learn more, the problem, and the way you understand it, will evolve; be flexible.

1. This is the problem as I see it now:

2. These are the people affected by this problem (the major players):

3. This is my stake in it:

4. These are people who have areas of expertise relating to this problem:

5. This is where I can find the experts' research:

Assess & Collaborate: Does it do what it needs to do?

Collaboration is essential to this process.  With a partner, discuss the following questions.  Note any suggestions and begin to revise your improved scenario:

Keep it real: Did you create a real-world scenario that's important to you?

Who are you talking to? Do you have a clear audience in mind? Who is it?

Add a layer of complexity: Is your problem difficult and complex enough to promote critical thought?

Question everything: Did you end with an open-ended question that can't be answered simply?

Resolution: Are there multiple ways to solve your problem? Are these solutions feasible?

Promote research: What do you still need to know about your problem and where can you go to learn more about it?

These are the things my peer suggested when we discussed my problem:

This is my improved problem/scenario:

Subject Guide

Kacy Lundstrom