First Thoughts on PBL

Overview

Nearly everything I have read about PBL this week shows this method of inquiry based learning to be an effective way to engage students. This style of learning has been shown to ready students to gain the skills and attitudes that will enable them to become active learners throughout life. One of the key elements is the role of teach as facilitator. Instead of a top-down instructional method, teachers pose a driving question that pique interests and galvanize students into a collaborative research mission. The information they find undergoes constant evaluation while working to complete open-ended assignments. Another vital aspect of PBL is it involves finding answers to real-world problems. Included in this is the notion that students perform better in terms of research skills, subject knowledge, and writing when the topics are of personal interest and are relevant to their lives. The ability for students to choose how they display their newly gained knowledge provides students a voice unique to themselves. Finally, projects are displayed publically, outside their immediate classmates and teacher which adds additional motivation.

Challenges

As an EFL teacher at an education university in Korea, I’m having trouble visualizing how I can incorporate PBL into my classroom. One of the primary hurdles I face comes from my department heads who are so steeped in traditional style teaching methods, getting the go ahead to pursue this out of the box method will be tough. Additionally, the opportunity for exploring PBL in language learning will require resources that will not come from in class. Therefore, accessing the computer lap or taking field trips or sending students into the community will be necessary. The first of these two may be seen by my superiors as off task or worse, unnecessary. The last may hold the key and is where I will focus my energies for incorporating PBL into my instruction.

Possible Project Idea for EdTech 542

My idea for EdTech 542 comes from our freshmen English class. This is a one semester class taken either in the spring or fall. The project I am imagining will replace two items done in the first half of the semester. In the fourth week, students must do individual presentations on a topic of choice, and in the eighth week they take a midterm speaking exam. We have no ‘standards’ per se, but learned language, increased confidence and fluency and exploring English in an engaging way that excites my students to continue on their own are the core criteria for our language program.

In the first half of the semester, students discuss their hometowns, our campus and Daegu. For my project, I’m thinking of asking my students to create a presentation that explores Daegu. I would leave the project open for the students in terms of how they want to discuss Daegu, but some possible final products could be a digital story, a blog in English that provides reviews on restaurants, places of enjoyment or popular hot spots, or how best to increase English ability and where to find resources whether it be at academy or by engaging th foreign English speaking community. Key to this project is the requirement to actively engage English speakers in some form. This will be left open to the students. Language objectives are past simple/perfect, used to, adverbs of quantity, wish, comparatives and superlative as well as various vocabulary sets and expressions. Assessment may come in the form of presenting their projects to another class, staff or even high school students looking at DNUE as a possible place of study. However, I think the ‘audience’ aspect of this project will be limited due to the current teaching methods and how they play into the perceived importance of this task as well as scheduling issues.

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