PBL, CBL, PBL, PB&J What Does it all Mean?

So I decided this week to branch out and do a podcast instead of your typical post.

A couple of things I have learned!

  1. I sound very echoey
  2. I need to better annunciate (hence the reason I am also posting the script)
  3. My speed is generally okay as is my volume
  4. I want to try again at a later date with another blog post.
  5. It is hard to make edits like I have realized I want in the script (edits in bold and Italics)

Script

Let’s start with some definitions:

The book How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom by Robert Delisle on the ASCD’s website quotes Howard Barrows’ definition of Problem Based Learning as “the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem”

The Buck Institute defines on their website that Project Based Learning as a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.

Digital Promise defines on their website that Challenge Based Learning as learning that provides an efficient and effective framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges.

I think it is easy to see that all three of these are basically the same idea. I am sure they have small elements that are subtly different from each other but I was struck by how alike they were while I was reading about them.

Just some of the similarities are that they:

  • All mention real life preparation
  • They all revolve around students identifying a problem and working towards a solution
  • They all ask for students to explore outside the 4 classroom walls
  • They all require student-driven research
  • They all require teachers as mentors
  • They all mention the use of technology
  • They all leave space for learning from failure

This week we were asked to write a blog post on how these apply to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom. While I do not teach in one classroom I still feel that these approaches are a key element of education. Our school, in fact, has been working towards developing skills and dispositions that would be elements of all three of these theories. The most obvious of which is self-directed learning.

One of the arguments that I hear a lot around these three theories is that “they are great for middle and high school, but I just can’t see how you can do this with first graders.” I have to respectfully disagree. While I do agree that there are elements of first grade that need to be more traditionally practiced, there is a lot that can be done with PBL (I will use this for both Problem and Project) and CBL learning. Yes, it will be more guided that you may do with a high school student but it is very possible to do.

I can’t think of a more effective way to teach students the value of research than to have them state a problem that they are interested in solving and then helping them to find the research they need to understand the problem and possible solutions. I can see this as having a much more lasting impact on their learning then asking them research something that you as the teacher decided on.

I can also see that the younger grades are where we can really leverage technology to help students share their process. For many in the younger grades, writing up their research or their findings is not a realistic idea. But videoing them talking about their research or recording them in a podcast talking about their research is not only developmentally appropriate it is a very effective use of technology in an authentic way. Which is a key element of PBL and CBL.

This is where I come in my role as the integrationist could be to come in and offer Tech training and knowledge to students are the right time for when they need it. Also offering the teacher training in the technology. I also see my role in this process as mentoring the teachers in the ways in which they can manage 20 students going off doing potentially 20 different projects at the same time. Technology can help teachers manage the individual communication between the teacher and the student as well as the collection of data along checkpoints to monitor the student’s progress through a project. For example, using Google Classroom to keep track of the activities happening with a project.

I do think that to be very effective and not be completely overwhelmed by these projects, technology will need to play a huge role. Yes, you can do things with paper but imagine if you as a teacher need two days to read over students research journals. If they are doing this with only paper then the students would either need to stop researching for two days or use another journal. If the teacher used technology the students could take photos of their research journal, share those photos with their teacher and then the students could continue with their research. Also, teachers could make this a process that happens frequently throughout the research, anytime a new “chunk” of research is gathered the students could submit it for feedback, which would give the teacher smaller checkpoints to give feedback to instead of large ones.

I think that many people worry that if we have students doing PBL and CBL nearly full time then there will be no need for teachers after all the students will be deciding what they are learning, how they are learning and how they are sharing that learning all on their own. The key element that the naysayers are forgetting is that students don’t just “know” how to do this. This is where teachers come it. While doing a PBL or CBL teachers could offer mini-lessons with small groups or the whole class when needed to teach a skill right at the perfect time when those students need it.

For example, teachers could offer a how to read data lesson for students who find their research is full of data. Which could lead to a lesson on how to collect data which could then help the students towards their goal of identifying problems and identifying solutions.

So in conclusion, I think that there is a place for PBL and CBL even in our younger grades and I do not see the role of the teacher as disappearing but morphing into something more along the lines of a Teacher Mentor who swoops in to help you when you need it and leaves you to discover, fail, scramble and succeed when you thought that you wouldn’t be able to.

Sources:

“What Is Project Based Learning (PBL)?” What Is PBL? | Project Based Learning | BIE, Buck Institute for Education, 2017, http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl.

Delisle, Robert. “Chapter 1. What Is Problem-Based Learning?” What Is Problem-Based Learning?, ASCD, http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/197166/chapters/What_Is_Problem-Based_Learning%C2%A2.aspx.

“Key Ideas.” Challenge Based Learning, Digital Promise, cbl.digitalpromise.org/about/key-ideas/.

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