Project Based Learning

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.

2 thoughts on “Project Based Learning”

  1. I agree, Ed. I mostly enjoyed this experience and think it can be an effective way for students to gain a deep understanding of a topic, but some more structure and review would help. I wouldn’t want to put my students through the anxiety I experienced toward the end of this project, but I agree that this could be fairly easily addressed with clear expectations and careful scaffolding.

  2. Ed,

    I also agree with you that PBL will be an interesting way for future students to learn their information. PBL will also be fun for the students. However, in Tim’s comment, as well as your post, you both discuss anxiety and a little bit of distress. I personally, do not think that major adjustments are needed, maybe some tips would help.
    My group, Southcentral, was ahead of the game the entire time and finished with time to spare. I think it was all because of the fact we met up on a Saturday from 10AM until 4PM to work in pairs to complete out sections. After we did that, when Monday came around all we needed to do was read through as a group and correct any information.

    So, I do not think this was designed to add stress to students, but more of the fact that most students might not have worked on the project outside of class. Yes, we had readings, but there is still time in the day to work on the project. It is self-management that seems to be the issue. Better self-management could lead to less stress, maybe? I think Peter could have given more guidance on how much work we should be doing outside of class and what we should accomplish inside class. Because with out that balance, some students fell behind or struggled to stay with the fast pace.

    Sorry if I seem like I am debating with you, I just wanted to explain that the anxiety will be there, but it could be lessened.
    Thank you for your post,
    Mason Shearer

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