Thematic Analysis of Teacher Instructional Practices and Student Responses in Middle School Classrooms with Problem-Based Learning Environment


  • Mariya Yukhymenko University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Scott W. Brown University of Connecticut
  • Kimberly Lawless University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Kamila Brodowinska University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Gregory Mullin Bunker Hill Community College


problem-based learning, middle school, classroom observation, qualitative study


Problem-based learning (PBL) environment is a student-centered instructional method based on the use of ill-structured problems as a stimulus for collaborative learning. This study tried to gain an understanding of teachersΓÇÖ instructional practices and studentsΓÇÖ responses to such practices in middle school classrooms with PBL environment through qualitative analyses. A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive thematic analyses was employed and applied to field notes and transcripts of video observations of four PBL classrooms. To do so, a codebook was created based on the descriptions of roles of teachers and students in PBL classrooms in literature, and was then applied to inductive codes that emerged from the data. This study identified a number of specific instructional practices of teachers, as well as responses that students might engage in during PBL instructions. Being able to articulate these roles is an important step in helping new PBL teachers learn to facilitate student-centered classrooms.