Honestly, the teacher in me learned quite a bit from the PBL exercise we did for ALST 600. The first thing I think I would say is I learned is that if you’re going to do a large PBL exercise like we did, you need to be fairly specific about what sort of content goes into it. This is especially the case if the project is supposed to be on something like parallel introductions to regions, etc.
I feel like there should have been a set of topical guidances which would have ensured that each region had elements of things like the effects of ANCSA or the establishment of the modern transportation structure on the region. I know that we were supposed to focus around six broad questions, but I think it would have been better if this had been a larger, but more specific, list, especially a list drawn from the instructor’s prior knowledge of multiple textbooks/history books. As it was, I feel like the introductions may have missed elements critical to understanding each region.
Another thing I realized is that we really needed to have some sort of summative activity. Now, I’m not blaming anyone for how the end of the class happened; this was an experiment. But what I’m trying to say is that I feel like I learned the most only about my region. But in order to accomplish the objectives of the class more thoroughly, we really needed some kind of individual or group presentations at the end of class, so that we could all be exposed to the content from every region. Last year I participated in a student-led class which was about 2/3 student presentations and 1/3 lectures by the professor. It was a lot of fun. If there had been student research leading to group presentations in class, I think it would have been more effective.
Additionally, I think that if I want to use PBL type assignments in class, I need to put them in a carefully scaffolded context. I think doing something like what we did after a series of lectures giving general background could have been very helpful.
I’m absolutely sure I’ll use PBL in my future work. I think, for me, a major takeaway is that it needs to be tweaked and set up a little differently. Honestly, the way it happened generated a lot of anxiety for a lot of the students in the class. Instructions and expectations needed to be clearer. I would not want to do that to my high school students, and I believe that with good scaffolding, clear expectations, and a presentational conclusion, this method can be very beneficial to students on their journey of discovery.