T2 - Helping Cocoa
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Professional Information Center | Student Investigation Center | Communication Center
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The goal of Debriefing is to have students reflect and generalize. During this last phase of PBL, you lift students out of the problem context and have them look more broadly and abstractly at both content and process. You also encourage students to think about transfer possibilities, about general application of knowledge and skills, and about extension possibilities.


One extension possibility is to have students consider the problem of “nuisance” bears. This would provide a good opportunity to teach young children the importance of being mindful of the ecosystem, of preserving natural environments, of not feeding wild animals, etc. If you and your students are interested in pursuing this topic, click on the resource page below to get started.


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A critical part of the discussion will focus on the conceptual theme, or Big Idea, and the important concepts you have developed during the unit. If the ideas have not been explicitly stated before (i.e., you chose to use an inductive approach), now is the time to make them explicit. If you want to read more about the deductive/inductive approach PDF to the Big Idea and/or about metacognitive inquiry PDF, you can click on them now, or access them through the Professional Information Center at any time.

Questions you might ask:

  • Now that we have tried to solve this problem, what do we know about how to approach a tough problem?
  • Now that we have seen how different people feel about different solutions, can we think of other decisions where differing points of view had to be considered?
  • What is the important thing for us to understand from this situation?
  • How might we apply that idea in other situations?

In Helping Cocoa you could ask questions like the following:

Reflection on the Big Idea (“Reasonable explanations are based on what we know and new evidence we gather from careful observations.”)

  • What evidence did we have that Cocoa was not thriving?
  • What observations did we make to gather additional information?
  • What did we learn from our observations?
  • What new evidence did we gather?
  • How did we use that information to explain what was wrong with Cocoa?
  • How did what we learned about bears help us decide what to do to make her better?
  • What can we say about making careful observations?

Reflection on Decision-Making and Problem-Solving

  • What were the good things about our decision?
  • What influenced us most in our decision?
  • Are we sure we made the best choice?
  • What was the hardest thing to solve about this problem?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Reflections on Product Development

  • What was the best thing about our report to the supervisor?
  • Did we choose the best charts, etc. to include?
  • Did we keep our goal in mind?
  • Did we keep in mind who would be hearing our report?
  • Would we change anything now?


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You might want to have students respond to some of your questions in writing for assessment purposes.

Concept Maps

Another assessment possibility is to have students complete a visual organizer. Be clear about what kind of knowledge or understanding you want your students to demonstrate, then decide on the type of graphic that would best represent that understanding. An alternative would be to ask students to create their own graphic using Inspiration HTML or Kidspiration HTML, or similar software, to represent their understanding.

If you asked students to draw a concept map at the beginning of the unit, have them draw another now. These pre-post maps can provide good evidence of growth, or change, in conceptual understanding over the course of a unit. For a brief paper on using concept maps as assessment tools PDF, click here or visit the Professional Information Center.

The key to good assessment is to give students multiple ways of showing what they know. In problem-based learning, the more authentic the assessment, the better.


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This concludes the PBL process. We sincerely hope you and your students have enjoyed Helping Cocoa and that you will participate in other PBL experiences. But, please, before ending this one, take a moment to go to the Communication Center and share your experiences HTML with us - about the Debriefing, or any part of the PBL process!


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