Curriculum Studies


The Importance of Co-Creation in Problem-Based Learning Curriculum and Development

Friday, November 10
3:45 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: 207 BC

The purpose of this session is to describe the development process used to create many of the award-winning Problem-Based Learning Units used by Project ExCEL, a Jacob K. Javits project. Participants learn about the process of co-creation and its importance to developing a PBL unit. Presenters discuss how teachers and curriculum writers collaborate to develop topics for new units and how teacher feedback is used to strengthen a unit. We share a preview of the newest Project ExCEL unit: The Great Debates: A Problem about How Television Changed the Landscape of the 1960 Presidential Election.

Dana L. Plowden

Lead Curriculum Writer
Project ExCEL


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Anne Horak

Coordinator, Project ExCEL
George Mason University

Anne Horak is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator for Project ExCEL, a federally funded Jacob K. Javits grant, at George Mason University. Project ExCEL uses Problem-Based Learning as a universal screening platform to find and serve high ability low income students. Dr. Horak has conducted research demonstrating the efficacy of PBL in middle school classrooms of gifted students (Horak, 2013).
Dr. Horak received her PhD in Education from George Mason University, her M.Ed in Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning from George Mason University and her B.A. in Secondary Education from the State University of New York College at Oswego. Her research interests include Problem-Based Learning, Gifted Education, Educational Policy and Teacher Professional Development.
Prior to joining the faculty at Mason, Dr. Horak served as Advanced Academic Program Specialist for Middle School for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) where she was integral to supporting the transition to open enrollment and developing the Problem-Based Learning curriculum. For two years, Dr. Horak was on special assignment for FCPS as a liaison to George Mason University managing a collaborative effort by the two agencies to establish a laboratory school. Dr. Horak has also taught middle school English and Social Studies in North Carolina and Virginia.


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Sara Townsend

Graduate Student
Project ExCEL

A PhD student at George Mason University, Sara is also a graduate research assistant on Project ExCEL, a federally funded scale-up Javits grant that incorporates Problem-based Learning (PBL) as an inquiry-based instructional method to identify and serve high ability-low income middle-school students. Prior to starting PhD work, Sara taught 6th and 7th grade United States history in Virginia Beach, Virginia. With a passion for education and developing innovative classroom environments, Sara served as social studies department chair, mentor for new teachers, and developed and taught professional development classes on the integration of English standards into social studies classrooms. As part of the Project ExCEL team, she has assisted in the development of and co-authored exciting new problem-based learning units combining American history and English standards.


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Rebecca L. Brusseau

Graduate Research Assistant, Project ExCEL
George Mason University


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The Importance of Co-Creation in Problem-Based Learning Curriculum and Development

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