PBL and Facilitator

The role of a facilitator in PBL

The role of a facilitator in PBL

We have already presented our cases in last two weeks. Problem based learning (PBL) use the problem as a vehicle for learning. A faculty becomes a facilitator instead of direct instructor. It is assumed that a faculty provides minimum guidance in PBL. A faculty designs or chooses a problem for the students. After working on designing a problem, I realize how important a faculty’s role in PBL. A faculty not only provides the problem but also models the learning process. H/She may not be an expert in the field but h/she definitely needs to be an expert in learning process. The success of PBL depends on the faculty’s role in the learning process. The role and responsibilities of faculties in PBL need to be flexible. They can decide the degree of directness in the class depending on the education level or the progress made by the students in the process. They can fade their role in guidance if the students develop their problem solving skills. Therefore, PBL needs to be flexibility adapted and its success depends on facilitators’ skills.

Feedback of my lectures

I have recently had an opportunity to deliver a technical lecture in a class of about sixty students and also a lab session lecture to a class of five students. I think enough practice of the lecture helped me to avoid my nervousness during the lecture. Two faculty members came to the class to provide feedback about it. I tried to engage the audience by making eye contacts, walking different areas in the classroom and asking questions during my lectures. I was appreciated by the faculties for my initiative about engaging the audience. The microphone was noisy at the beginning what I took care of immediately and it was considered by the faculties as taking control of the class. They also appreciated the pace of my lecture and my professional look. I was recommended to be more methodical about explaining a complicated slide. I was also advised not to put too much information in one slide. The most important method I learnt from this feedback was about describing a figure in the presentation. I needed to introduce the axis of a figure before explaining about it. I also struggled with the filler phrase ‘uh’ during the lecture, what I think could be avoided by more practice. It was an exciting experience and the feedback I received would be very helpful to improve my skills.

Laptops in the class: are they really helpful?

I have recently attended a lecture on ME 4006 as a GTA where the instructor asked the students to put their laptops aside or in tablet mode. This drew my attention and made me think if this was the right thing to do.

There are different styles or methods for lecturing a class. Some faculty member use writing on the board or on a piece of paper that is shown by a projector. On the other hand, some others prefer presenting slides and lecturing over them. The first method keeps the students busy in the class unless the notes are recorded and posted. It forces the students taking notes in the class. In this case, students may use their laptops in tablet mode and write on it. Here, it seems like laptops are very useful to them. But the disadvantage of this method is that it is hard to fathom the lectures materials while taking notes. Many students struggle at this. However, the second method has the advantage in terms of paying attention to the lectures as they are not required to take notes. Some people like to open the lectures on their laptops and take essential notes on it. But not all the students are attentive like this. Many of them get sidetracked by the distracting features by the laptops such as gaming, social networking, chatting and checking emails. The problems become severe when they watch or do something that hampers other students’ attention or the class environment. May be this was the reason why the instructor did not allow the students to use their laptops except in tablet mode or may be the instructor wanted them to be very attentive to the class or may be at least not to disturb others by any chance.

To make laptops useful in the class, faculties need to make their class technology interactive. They need to know how to embed learning materials in technologies to make it engaging for the students growing with technologies.

Whether rewards or punishment works in learning

I liked the video “what motivates us”. It showed monetary rewards worked for mechanistic works. Behavioral skills can be improved by external motivation in terms of rewards and punishment. Students are also motivated by grades, which works as an extrinsic motivation. If the learning approach is to mastery about behavioral skills, then rewards and punishment will work. However, if the learning requires critical thinking and conceptual growth, then punishment and reward system may not results good learning. In that case, some sort of self-empowerment and challenges would be a good choice. Self-empowerment can be the autonomy of deciding course policy, preferred exam methods, and flexible deadlines for assignments.  I think the instructors would find better engagement if they change the learning approach. The learning approach needs to be what the students want to learn instead of what the teachers want to teach in a subject matter.

Effective methods of a presentation

As a part of my fellowship requirement, I have some teaching requirements. Some of them are attending skills lectures, technical lectures, GTA training, delivering one technical lecture and teaching a lab class. The topic of the lecture was about uncertainty analysis, accuracy, precision, resolution, improving the air conditioner test set up and optimization of noise and coefficient of performance of an air conditioner. For lab session, I was required to give a short demonstration about the lab at the beginning of the lab. The lab requires not to spoon feed to the students. Because, the students need to act like professional engineers and address the critical issues of the lab on their own. So, it was my task to work as a guide or coach and to figure out what information or hints can be revealed to the students so that they can have enough knowledge to think about the problems independently. For the technical lecture, I modified and created some slides. To create the slide, I followed the rule that the title of the slide would be the assertion and the body of the slide would be the evidence. I also made my slides with much visual and less text because it is most likely that the students would remember the pictures in the slide. My overall slides can be divided into three main parts such as beginning, body and conclusion. The beginning part can be divided into three sections such as title, mapping and motivation. The title slide introduces the topic, the mapping slide provides the map of the lectures and motivation slide justifies the importance of the topic. I used some real-life examples in my motivation slide. The body part contains the background, results and analysis. The background reviews or provides the knowledge required to understands the topic. Results and analysis slides are the scope for detail technical information methodically. Finally, the conclusion slide summarizes the topic from overall perspectives with no new information. I think this kind of organization in slide design makes the presentation more effective to the audience.

Preparing for the lab session and technical lecture in ME 4006 (Mechanical Engineering Lab)

As a part of my fellowship requirements, I had to teach a lab session of five students and deliver a technical lecture to a class of almost sixty students. I was excited and nervous at the same time to have the opportunity of teaching a big class ever. I knew that it would not be an easy task for me as I was doing it for the first time in my life. So, I arranged a practice lecture one week before the actual lecture. I invited my adviser and other GTAs to my practice lecture. To get along with the equipment and classroom, my adviser reserved a classroom almost similar to the original scheduled classroom. After the mock presentation, I received some valuable comments regarding my slide design and presentation skills from my adviser and other GTAs. I think it was very helpful and necessary to improve my presentation. To practice the lab session, I attended a lab session administered by the lead GTA of the lab. It gave me the ideas about the issues that I might need to address during my lab. I also reviewed the background or the knowledge required to conduct the lab session and the technical lecture. For the technical lecture, I organized my talk and also video recorded my mock presentation at home. This is how I prepared the lectures and achieved confidence about them.

PBL can be promoted by online video lectures


Learning does not stop right after graduation. It is a lifelong process. Learning in school helps us to develop self-authorship. The grades we achieve in school are not true reflection of knowledge. It does not mean that they cannot improve anymore after passing the class. Moreover, the motivation for learning to receive a good grade may not work for all. As different people learn in different ways, an old fashioned lecturing in a large room may not be engaging for all. Some students may need one-to-one interaction and much attention in a class. The online video lecturing is very useful in this case. Students can sees the lectures as many times as they want until they get a good grasp of it. It also provides the opportunity for the instructors to spend their in class lecture time in exploring PBL. This will promote the skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and make the class more engaging.

Learning Centered Classroom


The understanding of human learning can be helpful in developing educational system. Knowledge is not remembering and repeating information but the ability to find and use it. Learning is the connection between response and stimulus. Motivation can be internal such as drive for hungers and external like rewards and punishment. People come to formal education with prior knowledge skills, belief, and concept that influence how they see the environments, organize, and interpret it. Teachers need to pay attention to prior knowledge, misbelief, and incomplete understanding. They need to build on these ideas for mature understanding. People need to recognize when they understand and when they need more information. A classroom environment need to be learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered.

The MUSIC model of motivation


Course design is a key factor to motivate or engage students. There are many different types of motivation theories available. Music model of motivation is impressive. This model is derived from social-cognitive theoretical framework. MUSIC is the acronym for empowerment, usefulness, success, interest, and caring. Five components of motivation can be applied all together or separately according to the need. However, it is not a checklist type process. It is important to understand the theories of each component to apply them correctly. Motivated students engage them in activities that yield learning and achieving academic goals. Empowering students is a way to create belief in each students that they are valuable in the class. It generates collaborative learning environment in the class. Students can be empowered even by taking their opinions in setting up the class rules. Usefulness can be achieved by describing the reason for learning. Students learn better if they see the importance of the contents, applicability, and future perspectives. The learning can be more engaging by having the opportunities to solve real world problems. Success refers to acquire skills and knowledge by putting effort into learning a course. Instructors need to design a course in a way that is neither overwhelming nor too easy. It must be challenging such that it takes effort to succeed. Instruction of every assignment needs to be explicitly directive, and complex problems should be divided into small segments. Instructors have the ability to influence students’ interest. They can engender passion for the contents so that the students willfully participate in learning. They can try various presentation styles, and serve as a role model to the students to foster interest in learning. Caring shows instructors’ interest in students’ learning. Care can be provided to a group of students or individual student inside or outside the classroom. Extension of deadline for assignments, resubmission of assignments for correction, and knowing each other personally are the reflections of caring that promote students’ learning. In conclusion, it is an instructor’s choice what and how to apply the motivation techniques in order to achieve best outcomes from the students.

civility and freedom of speech


The civilities are viewed differently in different countries. The difference comes from culture, customs, tradition, and history. In most of the cases, the civilities are questioned on the issues of politics and religion. Intolerance can be seen in a political debate or demonstration and religious debate or demonstration. Verbal attack sometimes even leads to the violence. I am not sure if the freedom of speech allows people to threaten their opponents. I don’t know if there is a measure in the degree of abusive speech that is allowed in a debate or protest.