Problem Based Learning – Applied Forces


The main topic of this unit is applying forces to design bridges.  Bridges are something that students see all the time but many of them have trouble explaining why they are designed in a certain manner.  By the end of this unit, students will demonstrate a variety of skills including being able to defend a design using scientific evidence, breaking forces into their vector components, and .  This is a full inquiry unit because it displays all of the levels of inquiry with the following variations: questions-3, evidence-1, analysis-1, explain-1, connection-1, and communication-1. This is very student centered as the students are responsible for the design, testing, and evaluation process.

In terms of modifications, this unit provides several options for teachers.  It is naturally differentiated because it allows students to determine the level of complexity of their design as well as the amount of background research they wish to partake in.  For ELL students, the design defense section can focus more on providing evidence instead of a clear and concise presentation.  This lesson greatly utilizes technology as students are able to use computers of phones to explore simulations, explanations, and perform data analysis.

For standards, learning objectives, and assessment, see the unit plan below.

Unit Resources

PBL Unit Plan – Applied Forces – This unit plan details an applied forces unit the involves students being presented with a realistic problem and tasked with developing a solution for it.  This unit contains a pacing guide, standards, learning objectives, resources, and rubrics for individual and group assessment.


Problem based learning is a very effective model for engaging students in detailed inquiry that is related to real world issues.  It allows students to apply their skills in a more realistic manner compared to the more traditional manners of solving word problems and calculating values.  PBL greatly develops problem solving skills in students as their success is dictated by the degree of inquiry they engage in in order to develop a solution.  Forces are an excellent candidate for PBL as they are very relevant in students lives and allow students to create products that utilize their body of knowledge.  Two issues that can arise in PBL is ensuring students do not settle for the minimum level of work and getting students to buy in.  I will address this by engaging in conversations with various students in order to guide them into higher levels of inquiry.  As for getting students to buy in, I will make sure to explain to students the applicable nature of the skills developed in PBL.


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