PBL is certainly a hard concept for some teacher’s (particularly veteran teachers) to grasp. On the outside, it looks somewhat out of place from, well, the traditional school (but that’s the point). Students are interacting with each other, they’re discussing, creating, communicating with the teacher (who is more or less a facilitator). Where are the rows of neat and tidy desks with students writing in open notebooks, or reading textbooks?
It’s been proven time and time again, that not all student’s learn the same, or even at the same rate. Unfortunately, many teachers focus on one specific instructional method in an attempt to fit ALL students.
According to the article, Put Understanding First, teachers are putting too much emphasis on pushing content on students without and chance for application or analysis. Students are fed facts, figures, etc, and then tested on it through assessment methods that really only support basic cognitive application (multiple choice, fill in the blank, general recall, etc).
PBL, on the other hand, delivers small pieces of content followed by various application activities. Students are immediately challenged to think about a problem or situation, and then they begin learning things that will help them solve it. The three major steps as outlined by the article were Meaning, Acquisition, and Transfer. Students aren’t forced facts and figures, and then expected to memorize. Instead, they are led through the learning process through inquiry, discussion, experimentation, and then finally (and this is the big one) APPLICATION. Students need to see that what they’re doing in school is relevant to the real world. They aren’t going to see relevance through reading a textbook, or watching a teacher write on a board, they need to get involved in the learning process. That’s exactly what PBL’s do.
PBLs focus on establishing connections to the content from real world scenarios, and problem-based activities/research. The very nature of a PBL ensures that students that may have necessarily been stuck at the acquisition stage (which most schools spend the majority of the time focusing on), will no longer be stuck simply because of the varied methods included in a PBL. Students aren’t just learning content with a PBL, they are acquiring and developing a whole set of life-relevant skills such as analysis, reasoning, collaboration, problem solving, etc. All of these skills are relevant and necessary once outside of school, and shouldn’t that REALLY be the goal of all high school institutions?