Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

John R. Murray

Second Advisor

Delores Gallo

Third Advisor

Judith Collison


As educators we share a link with the classic story of the "Velveteen Rabbit", as we also seek what is real. In education "real" is what holds meaning for the students and connects their world to the world of the classroom. As teachers we continually ask for the students' active participation, involvement and commitment to the learning task, but too often we teach only from the textbook. Classroom tasks that do go beyond textbook mastery may spark the students' interest, but sometimes appear to have no link to the reality of the students' world. Cognitive research reminds educators of the importance of making learning connections as a means of preventing knowledge from becoming inert. This thesis proposes a model that attempts to offer students a curriculum that's 'real' for the students. The model emphasizes the critical and creative thinking skills used in problem solving, while it draws on the strengths of two programs, problem based learning and LEGO Dacta bricks. The problem based learning model stresses the problem finding component of the problem solving process. and the LEGO Dacta emphasizes the solution finding and solution testing phase. Problem based learning begins with offering the students an ill-structured, researchable problem to solve. The students' goals are to determine what information would be needed to define and ultimately generate a solution. Since the problem finding phase in problem based learning offers many, varied approaches to the problem, the students may define the problem in a way that is unique to their point of view. This differs from the traditional problem solving approach, in which the students are given a well-defined problem. By allowing the students to determine the problem to be explored, they are able to assume ownership of the problem. LEGO Dacta bricks are one of basic building toys of children. Introducing building blocks into the problem solving process combines the world of problem solving with the students' world of play. The students are more eager participants in the process, as they can formulate a concrete model to test and evaluate their solutions. The goals of this curriculum are three-fold: 1) to have the students become more involved in the learning task; 2) to teach the students the steps classroom to their world; 3) to give the students an environment that will foster self-directed learning.