T2 - Hurricane Season-Prepare!
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Investigation/ Exploration
Knowledge and Skills
Instructional Strategies
PBL Techniques
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  Resolution/ Refinement
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The goal of the Investigation/Exploration phase is for students to acquire, organize, and analyze the information the problem scenario leads them to gather. They will need a good understanding of the content and the issues surrounding the situation before they can narrow the problem and frame a problem statement.

Your students' investigation will be built around the questions generated and the initial planning done during the Engagement phase. Prompt them to review the Learning Issues Board often and to keep it updated. Encourage them to continue to refine their questions as they gather new information. Click below to see a sample of the Hurricane Season - Prepare! Learning Issues Board as it might expand during Investigation.

Learning Issues Board – Sample 2 PDF


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At this point you will want to work with your students to begin to plan their investigation. Click below or go to the Professional Information Center to find the QD4R Research Strategy with its accompanying Research Guide visual organizer. All of your students might not need this structured strategy, but some undoubtedly will. Again, refer to the paper on Universal Design for Learning PDF for tips on how to scaffold the use of learning strategies with your students.

QD4R Strategy PDF | QD4R Research Guide word


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Though you cannot anticipate all the questions your students will generate, you can anticipate many of them and be prepared with appropriate materials and resources. There are certain topics, of course, that you want to be sure to have students investigate. If these topics are not identified by students, you can "seed" them by suggesting topics yourself (e.g., "You know, there is something you haven't included that you might want to consider. How about ...?") There is nothing wrong with doing this - in fact, it is exactly what you should do in your role as "coach." Keep in mind that as a coach you are not a silent observer, but a model and a guide.

In Hurricane Season - Prepare! you undoubtedly will want your students to investigate the two broad topics listed below. We have suggested Learning Tasks for each topic, though you may add others and/or change these to suit your needs. We have included online resources for each task, and you will find an expanded list of Web sites in the Professional Information Center.

You will see that each task has a number of subtasks that, taken together, provide for a wide variety of interests and abilities in keeping with the flexibility principle of Universal Design for Learning PDF. With this flexibility you can assign students to subtopics or allow students to select their own for investigation. Assisting students in the appropriate selection of topics is a good avenue for enhancing their metacognitive skills. You will notice, too, that some of the tasks have built-in content enhancements (see explanation in section below) and strategy reminders, again as part of the universal design of the unit.

  • Hurricane Preparedness
    • Evacuation and shelters
    • Resident and visitor actions
  • Check Quiz-Preparedness PDF. After students have worked on the above tasks, they can take this quiz to test their level of basic understanding.

  • About Hurricanes
    • Basics and background information
    • Special interest subjects

    Check Quiz-Hurricane Basics PDF. After students have worked on the above tasks, they can take this quiz to test their level of basic understanding.


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Deductive and Inductive Approach to the "Big Idea" PDF

One decision you will have to make early on is whether you are going to take a deductive or an inductive approach to the "Big Idea." That decision will guide the questions you develop for this phase of PBL. Regardless of which approach you use, the Big Idea is an important component of Hurricane Season - Prepare! It provides a lens for looking at the issues involved in this problem scenario, and it facilitates transfer of what is learned during this unit to other problem situations. Use of a Big Idea is discussed in the Universal Design for Learning PDF paper that is referenced in the Professional Information Center.

Embedded Instruction ("just in time" teaching)

As students engage in their Learning Tasks, they will find they need some knowledge and skills that they do not have. This provides opportunities for "just in time" teaching, or embedded instruction. This can take the form of mini-lectures, demonstrations, interviews, readings, videos, etc. During the Investigation phase, you should probably be prepared to provide information on:

  • state and local government
  • the economics of tourism
  • interpretation and use of maps
  • use of handheld probeware (weather instruments)
  • making predictions and calculating probability
  • other -- (complete the list with items of your own)

You will want to plan ahead for the grouping and instructional structures you will use and to establish effective ways for students to acquire and manage the information they need. Consider the strategies below.

Mediated Scaffolding

Scaffolding, an essential teaching technique, refers to the guidance teachers give to students as they gain new knowledge and learn new skills. On difficult tasks, scaffolding is substantial at first, but then is gradually withdrawn as students become increasingly able to perform independently. The amount and duration of scaffolding will change with the needs of the learner as well as the difficulty of the task. To read more about scaffolding, please see the Universal Design for Learning PDF paper referenced in the Professional Information Center.

Content Enhancements

Content Enhancements are memory and/or organization aids, such as study guides, maps and tables, graphic organizers, photographs and multimedia, etc., that do what their name implies - enhance content. Their use is especially important for students with learning disabilities, but they should be used by any student who finds them helpful. We have prompted students to use content enhancements in some of the Learning Tasks as part of the unit's UDL feature. You will find a description of content enhancements in the paper on Universal Design for Learning PDF.

Reciprocal Teaching PDF

Reciprocal teaching is a well-researched and highly regarded strategy for comprehension and concept development. We have found it also works well with small groups in a problem-solving situation. A brief description of reciprocal teaching can be found in a paper referenced in the Professional Information Center.

Jigsaw PDF

A very effective grouping strategy is the jigsaw, a cooperative learning structure that provides a strong design for teaming students. If you clicked on the Learning Tasks above you will have found several tasks that are appropriate for small group work. You could use the jigsaw to segment and assign those tasks.

Inquiry ("stop and think")

As students work, periodically ask them to stop and think about the implications of their tasks for the problem at hand. Ask questions such as:

  • How does an understanding of past hurricanes help us to prepare for future storms?
  • Is it helpful to know the likelihood of events and associated hazards?
  • How does timing affect preparation plans? (month and day as well as watch/warning status)
  • How does knowledge of community agencies assist us in our planning?
  • How do local communication and transportation systems affect our plan?
  • How does it help us to educate the local population about hurricanes and other storm hazards?
  • What can we now identify as roadblocks to our efforts? How might we overcome them?
  • What can we identify as sources of assistance? How can we use that assistance?
  • How is your investigation changing your thinking about this situation?
  • What forces are operating on this problem?
  • What are the real issues here?
  • What more do we need to know? How can we find out?


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Pointers and Kickers


Students will need more information regarding the scenario as they begin to explore their situation. As you give them this information, stay within the framework of the scenario. Make the information as realistic and authentic as you can. These pieces of information, or "Pointers," are often in the form of some communication such as a letter or email or phone call, etc., but they can be whatever provides the most authentic format.

Pointers in Hurricane Season - Prepare! include:

  • Suffolk County information in the Engagement phase
  • Road map in Task #1
  • Map of schools and hospitals in Task #1
  • Harriet track in the Kicker
  • Memo from Tourist Bureau in the Kicker
  • Memo from Police Chief in the Kicker


Occasionally you will want students to consider something they haven't considered or to think about something in a different way. To accomplish this, you introduce a "Kicker." In Hurricane Season - Prepare! Kickers are used in the Resolution phase when students have to put their plan into action and encounter a variety of pressures and problems.

Problem Statement

When your students have acquired a clearer understanding of the situation, you will need to lead them in developing a problem statement that focuses further investigation and leads to the Resolution phase of PBL.

A problem statement should include the issues to be resolved and the conflicting conditions that must be met so the proposed solution will be workable. It can be stated in the following format:

"How can we [take/recommend this action] in a way that [takes into account this constraint]?"

Sample problem statements for Hurricane Season - Prepare! include:

How can we develop an emergency management plan that will be simple and clear to everyone?

How can we develop an emergency management plan that includes all contingencies?

How can we develop an emergency management plan that is acceptable to all concerned agencies?

You will see from these samples that the particular problem statement will greatly influence subsequent investigation and the problem resolution. This is one of the most difficult components of PBL, but it is important for students to understand the value of a carefully crafted problem statement.


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A variety of assessments can be used during the Investigation phase:

  • Checkpoint "quizzes." Two have been developed, though you may want to change them to address the particular content you cover. The quizzes and answer sheets can be found in the Professional Information Center.

Check Quiz-Preparedness PDF

Check Quiz-Hurricane Basics PDF

  • Daily entries in students' Problem Logs
  • Rubrics for classroom participation and teamwork
  • Rubrics associated with task products/performances
  • Concept map updates

Visit the Assessment section of the Professional Information Center for these items.


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Go to the Resolution/Refinement HTML phase to begin making decisions regarding your proposed solution.


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Before proceeding, please take a moment to share your experiences HTML with us!

Hurricane Isabel - NOAA
Photo courtesy of NASA

Copyright © 2004 Elon University.