My Problem Based Learning journey with my students was an interesting one. One where I feel there was a major outcome which I hadn’t realized was more important to me than the students guiding their own learning. For me, that was the ability for the students to clearly communicate their thinking, learning the key questions to ask when given a problem, and being able to learn from each other, or change their perspective based off another student’s explanation or demonstration. For me, these are life long skills that PBL provided my students the opportunity to develop, so I would say, yes, based off this, PBL in our class was successful.
However, that wasn’t my initial goal. I was using PBL so that my students could guide their own learning by identifying what they knew to solve the problem and what they needed to learn, to solve the problem. I feel that my grade 7 students, who I used in the video, were able to apply their conceptual understanding and prior skills to solve the number of authentic problems I shared with them. (A few of which are documented in the video). Some scenarios I chose enabled the students to transfer their skills to solve the problem, which is what I hoped they would be able to do, and some of the problems pushed student’s learning to their personal next step, whereby their new learning was guided primarily by peer teaching, versus using multiple resources available. For those students who I noticed did struggle, I guided them to go and reinforce that concept through practice, using their choice of resource, while the other students moved onto the next conceptual based authentic problem, and repeated the process.
Each problem had levels of difficulty based on how in-depth the students think and question, therefore given the students level of conceptual understanding I used guiding questions to also differentiate the problem for them. By doing this it enabled more students to be pushed out of their conceptual comfort zone at some point, and make them learn something new to enable them to find a solution to the problem.
According to the SAMR model, the end of unit, predominantly skill driven paper test, was redefined, as the students created their own open ended authentic problem and possible solution, that demonstrated their conceptual understanding of a unit concept. Students chose any form of technology to share their problem with their peers. This provided the opportunity for others to solve their problem, then explain why they got that particular solution. These problems will become a resource for this unit in the future. An example of one problem produced is below.
For me I chose to use a modified form of a socratic seminar for students to discuss how they best learn math. They watched ‘youcubed’, a Stanford University, ‘Solve the Math Problem’ video, then they were given two different scenarios to think about, prior to the discussion. I chose this method versus an interview, as it gave the students the autonomy and freedom to guide the discussion, and enabled them to practice their communication skills to understand their peers perspective and communicate their own learning style using evidence to support their opinions. The results of this discussion were different to what I had anticipated! Overall students thought there was a time and place for both working in a small group and working alone. One comment was, ‘If I know how to do something, I want to work alone so I don’t waste time.’ The second big take away was that most students prefer being taught the specific math skills, then apply them to solve an authentic problem versus guiding their own learning, PBL. This was interesting and as I shared with my students, this will now guide how I work with this particular group of students.
During the socratic seminar I used an app called, Equity Map, which you can see on the iMovie, and this in itself was such a powerful tool. It gives immediate feedback about both individual participation and a summary of group participation in the socratic. Therefore I developed a socratic feedback form on google docs. Each student would not only receive a copy of their own discussion results from the app, but observations and from this information they make their next ‘communication’ goal, to use during their next socratic. Over time they can monitor their growth. It is a very powerful tool in its own right, and one the students love.
I feel PBL will continue to be a part of my math program, however, for the majority of these particular students who aren’t necessarily independent thinkers, this may not be so effective. They may have more success if they apply their skills and concept knowledge to solve an authentic problem, versus guiding their own learning while trying to solve a problem.
During this COETAIL course one benefit for me has been the PLN section, as it has enabled me to find sites and follow like minded people, who I can learn from. It has taken me out of my bubble and introduced me to new resources that I wouldn’t have otherwise found. I have enjoyed the readings and being challenged to think about the ways I use technology and ways I can better use technology to enhance my students learning and my teaching – a win, win situation.