Archive for October, 2013

QBL – A Practical Solution to Teaching

By Coby Enteen

Project-based Learning (PBL) has gained a great deal steam and has been adopted and implemented in many forms, over the course of the last decade.  Teachers invest endless hours in dissecting topics, planning activities, writing questions, organizing information, consulting with fellow educators, correlating to standards, and learning new technologies only to discover that the PBL unit takes up too much time and is largely out of synch with the school schedule, requirements, and other teaching taking place in the school.  In addition, inquiry-based learning (IBL) has largely been viewed as an effective means for improving the understanding of science concepts, and developing much needed critical thinking skills among students (Edelson, Gordon, & Pea, 1999).  Although tremendously effective in some environments, the IBL approach involves a great deal of preparation and is largely difficult to implement.  The challenges presented by these two methods, combined with the lack of teacher time and resources has brought about a third alternative, which has been coined the Question-based Learning (QBL) technique.

QBL is largely based on the principals of PBL and IBL, taking into account the constraints of the typical classroom.  While PBL is designed to encourage the development of 21st century skills while promoting student thought and motivation (Blumenfeld, 1991), and IBL encourages learning that is based on investigation; QBL is designed to incorporate both methods through short and adaptable process, which combines traditional teaching with inquiry, research, product development, reporting, and assessment.  Solomon (2008) argues that “introducing and implementing PBL in a traditional school setting can be a complex challenge, requiring a significant change in teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning.”  In reality this required ‘change in approach’ has the negative affects of leading to the disintegration of effective learning practices and methods.  The QBL process provides a more practical and adaptable instructional approach, as illustrated below (figure 1).


QBL ModelFigure 1 – QBL Method

When effectively implemented, the QBL method provides an attainable framework for teachers to deliver content in a flexible, yet dynamic fashion.  Students engage in traditional learning activities for knowledge acquisition, transition into discovery learning and research, then work collaboratively to integrate creativity with advanced levels of thinking to both create and present products.  The discovery learning approach fits in well with QBL, because it allows students to actively investigate and explore new content, while developing sound strategies for learning the new material (McDaniel & Schlager, 1990).

QBL is an effective process for incorporating modern-day instructional approaches into the classroom.  The many constraints placed on educators, combined with the drive to improve education as a whole place a great deal of pressure on the teacher, who often finds it difficult to implement  innovative methodologies in an effective manner.


Blumenfeld, P.C., Soloway, E., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Guzdial , M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398

Edelson, D., Gordin, D., & Pea, R. (1999). Addressing the Challenges of Inquiry-Based Learning Through Technology and Curriculum Design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3-4), 391-450.

McDaniel, M., & Schlager, M. (1990). Discovery Learning and Transfer of Problem-Solving Skills. Cognition and Instruction,7(2), 129-159.

Solomon, G. (2008, 11). Project-Based Learning: a Primer .Classroom Technology News | Educational Apps | Bloom’s Taxonomy | Retrieved Oct 21, 2013, from

Mobile Devices Level the Global Educational Playing Field

Ghana Training

by Coby Enteen

Mobile devices are slowly transforming the educational landscape for teachers on a global scale.  In a recent trip to Africa I had the opportunity to work with local K-12 teachers on utilizing and incorporating digital tools into the classroom.

This program took place in Ghana, which is a country with approximately 20 million people, of which 90% complete primary school grades and only a very small percentage move on to finish a twelfth grade education, and even fewer achieve a post secondary education.

A majority of the schools in Ghana lack the technological resources and facilities that we have become accustomed to in the western world.  In the larger cities, some schools have computer labs and teachers use their own laptops where available.  Another issue is the lack of internet access and instability of the electrical system, which is often times overloaded and causes blackouts.

The one aspect “leveling the field” is the increased access to mobile devices.  It is very common to see individuals walking around with two mobile devices; one for work and one for personal use.  These devices offer tremendous opportunities for the advancement of the field of education, particularly as related to the ability to teach 21st century skills and to provide easy access to information commonly available to individuals throughout the western world.

A number of barriers still remain to the effective incorporation of  these devices into the classroom:

  • High cost of data – In many developing countries where food and health care are still a main concern, individuals are unable to afford  the high cost of data, which is buoyed by little competition within the cellular communication market.
  • Breaking the traditional teaching model – Although digital education has become a commonplace term throughout the western world, the concept of educational transformation and 21st century skills is still a foreign concept to a majority of educators throughout the developing world.
  • Opening the eyes of educators to the possibilities of technology in education – Teachers throughout the developing world often times lack the basic skills required for utilizing the technology for teaching and for guiding student work.

Mobile devices are slowly flattening the world in terms of bringing technology into the classroom.  The lack of computers and other technologies within the educational arena in the developing world is being supplemented by the widespread availability of mobile devices.  We must overcome a number of obstacles in order to meet this challenge and support educational change.