I am using Google Reader to explore the topic of Problem Based Learning, and when I checked in with my Reader page recently, I discovered this interesting blog post and the author’s insights on PBL — with some of them being a cold splash of water on my uninformed explorations into PBL.
“I want to get into PBL”. Something I hear and see a lot of recently. I’ve been an advocate of PBL for a while, so in lieu of people understanding what PBL is, I take it as a sign they want to do something new (to them) in their classroom.
Romance: They often head off to Buck Institute or start consuming Edutopia content. For the more wealthy, they hire in US consultancies like New Tech Foundation who offer seemingly “off the shelf programs “and “pay-for-databases of projects”.
In trying to understand PBL, I have headed off to the Buck Institute and have started consuming Edutopia content. In my defense, being uninformed, I am not sure where else to go but to these sites so that I can become to be informed.
The author goes to say:
Myth: I’ve said a few times publicly that PBL often appears a cure for something we imagine to be missing in the classroom (the curse of people talking about self-direction and authentic engagement). It assumes the patient is sick and that the symptoms are in some way related to the underlying condition that has been popularised by Web2.0 authors and speakers.
Reality: PBL requires 2 things – both of them are well researched and important. Firstly, the process or cycle of learning is well a planned, rhobust (sic) and instructionally (sic) designed to produce emergent, communicative knowledge. This does not mean students understand how that knowledge might be applied to new situations – wisdom takes a while and cannot be planned to happen week 8, lesson 3.
These are excellent insights but, just as John Hattie propounds that teaching needs to be visible for students, teaching strategies must also be visible so teachers can learn new strategies. As I said, this blog post has some powerful insights from an apparently expert or advanced user of PBL, but where do I go to know what s/he knows? What if I don’t have access to a mentor, as is suggested? Is there nowhere I can learn this for myself? Because, as Rick Stiggins suggests, a learner can hit any target that is visible from a long way off and that stands still. I have to hold out hope that I can learn the how-to’s of PBL by ‘heading off to the Buck Institute’ or by ‘consuming Edutopia content’ — at least as a starting point.