Sunday, September 30, 2007

Problem-Based Learning

Duch, B. (1996). Problems: A key factor in PBL. Retrieved on August 19, 2007 from

Duch argues that good problems are a key factor in PBL that motivates, focuses, and initiates student learning. Characteristics of good problems include 1) engaging students' interest and motivate them to probe for deeper understanding of concepts, 2) requiring students to make infomation-based decisions or judgments, 3) Collaborative work with group members; 4) open-ended initial questions that are connected to previous learned knowledge or connected to controversial issues; and 5) incorporation of content objectives. In addition, good problems should challenge students to achieve higher-level critical thinking. The author then identifies 3 levels of problems which place questioning at different cognative levels ranging from Bloom's Knowledge to Evaluation, with several problem exmaples designed for Physics and Biology classes that demonstrate the application of the three levels. I enjoyed reading this article because it has not only presented a clear definition of what constitute a good problem but also provided exellent exmaples around the three levels based on Bloom's Taxonomy.

Question #1. Are you using PBL in your teaching? If so, describe. If not (or even if you are) why is PBL hard to "do" in your teaching?

I have to admit that it is hard for me to answer this question because of my lack of teaching experience.The only teaching position I have had before I entered this program was an English tutor at a weekend foreign language school back in China. However, exactly like what my classmate Diana said about her teaching, "the time period and frequency that I have with the children does not lend itself to this type of indepth activity. " Fortuately I was assigned as a grad assistant to assist the instructor of EDTEC120 class this fall. In the first two weeks I've already seen some PBL activities. For example, the instructor let the students who are new Mac users to solve technology problems through PBL -- these future teachers need to be self-sufficient with computers and the best way to do this is to convert everyday challenges as opportunities to learn. They are asked to pose and answer questions on an user-driven discussion boards. If answers and questions are indexed and searchable, the resulting knowledge base can be a valuable resource for the next challenge. So hopefully when in service, they will be able to use this same knowledge-building model with their students on any other topics.

Question #2. What might some relationships between Inquiry, PBL, and computing be? Can you give an example beyond those provided from your own school?

Usually inquiry is the first and basic step to implement a PBL activity, as learners must engage in inquiry to get information about the problem. That's why Problem-Based Learning can also be called Inquiry-Based Learning. If supported by the computer technology, PBL can be put into maximum use. Mindtools are a good example to illustrate the positive relationships between computing and PBL. Collaborative distance learning environments, simulations in the classroom, and many other computer-mediated approaches can all count toward this effort.

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