I’ve mentioned before that my particular education field (Technology Education) truly allows me to run my classes almost entirely in PBL format. However, after 1.5yrs of teaching in, it’s not the creation of the PBL that’s the problem, it’s the management of the PBL that I’m still constantly trying to modify and adapt.
The key to an effectively managed PBL begins with proper direction. Students need to be clear on what the EXACT goals and objectives are within the project. I usually give a detailed assignment sheet that lists every requirement and goal for the project. Additionally, a separate rubric for each checkpoint and/or culminating project should be given and discussed not only at the beginning, but throughout the project.
PBLs often involved group collaboration, so using a tool like Wikispaces, or Google Docs, or a general discussion forum, students are able to collaborate and communicate throughout the project. However, I’ve found from using these discussion mediums, that students do need to be monitored for inappropriate use of the technology. Spot checking discussions, and making them part of the PBL benchmarks ensures that students will have a better chance of staying on task.
Many of my classes have students producing a digital works for me as culminating projects, but right now, we aren’t sharing them in any way shape or form. I think I would like to utilize a tool like Moonk! to have my students publish their final works (even edit them a little bit), and have students share them through a class community like Ning. Both of these processes would need clear benchmarks identified at the beginning of the PBL and while the actual process is being completed. Possibly including some conflict avoidance ahead of time would be ideal as well since having students posting comments on others work can be a shaky line. Students need to make sure their comments are constructive and not critical.
Aside from using communication and publishing tools for my class, the general overall management of the PBL can be very challenging. My problem areas lie in my ability (or lack there of) to continually ORIENT the students to the goals and objectives of the project. I do this at the beginning of a PBL, but rarely ever again. What happens is students become a bit disconnected from the objectives later in the project, and then they become a bit confused. In situations like these, I’m getting better at establishing “just-in-time” instruction to refresh important concepts, but I still think the confusion all together can be eliminated all together through proper orientation throughout the project.