Over the past few weeks I have been speaking with students in passing about problem based learning (PBL), and group projects. I have found that students do not like these assignments just as I did not as an undergraduate. Two students at VT told me about their hectic final semester that included group projects in the majority of their classes. Some of these projects work better than others, but they agreed that it is necessary to have meeting time in class in order for these tasks to work.
After watching the video posted to the course scholar site, I believe that PBL is only one of many ways of advancing higher on Bloom’s learning taxonomy.
Not quite the food pyramid
When looking at this list, I know that it was only during challenging individual introspective assignments that I was able to get beyond memorization into creation and critique. Other methods deserve to be explored before heralding PBL as the only way to get students up this ladder. It may save everyone a lot of headache.
This week we had a group of readings on problem-based learning. While I believe PBL is a good idea in education, I think it should be only implemented where the material allows and where all group members can benefit.
Over-analysis of groupwork
Unfortunately certain problems require a detailed study of the fundamentals before students can even begin to solve them. While some intro-level courses may get away with answering basic problems, beyond students really need to read and consider the ideas of others on general principles before tackling in-depth topics.
I also believe that PBL in certain disciplines can have a negative effect on the way people approach problems in their future work. For instance, consider the UVA med school example we read about in the UVA magazine. If these students are only presented with particular faculty-created problems (with an attainable answer), they may enter the profession with the mindset of solving problems when some health issues are not presented in such a clear-cut manner. Some health concerns are even unsolvable, so how would these learners address them?
We’ve all been in that group where the work distribution did not fall equally. For students who enter class in an attempt to learn and struggle with their own limits, working with others can hinder this process. And it is really frustrating to get a lower grade on a project due to the errors made by others.
Otherwise, count me in on the PBL movement.