Future professor? Perhaps. Prepared? Not a chance.
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  • Problem Based Learning: Are We Missing Half of the Picture?

    Posted on April 15th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    I have many thoughts on the Problem Based Learning (PBL). Most of them are positive: “This is better for students…”, “This makes for more interesting grading…”, “Imagine the possibilities…” Some not so positive: “What-if-I-do-something-completely-useless-and-disorganized-and-my-students-hate-me??!” But there is one thing that keeps nagging at me about our class discussions of PBL: the assumption that PBL = group work.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for group work. At some point in our lives, we need to learn to play well with others. We need to learn how to share responsibilities, how to lead, how to follow, and how to delegate. We will work in many different types of groups in our careers and lives. There is no question that group work in school is important.

    Individual work is important, too. Frequently, we work alone. It could even be argued that significant amounts of “group work” are actually individual portions of a project that are merely brought together in the end. Unfortunately, it seems that oftentimes we are not given adequate opportunity to work independently and develop our own thought processes. So it is important that discussions of implementing PBL in the classroom also include problems that are to be solved individually.


  • Who Needs PBL When You Have Immersive Learning? (or: There Are No Problems Here, Only Solutions)

    Posted on April 15th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    In case you weren’t aware (and let’s face it, if you aren’t a geoscientist, you probably weren’t), the Southeast section meeting of the Geological Society of America took place last week on the Virginia Tech campus. And while you may believe (again, assuming you aren’t already a geoscientist) that geology class is about as exciting as a box of rocks, it turns out that there are geoscience profs out there who are doing some really cool things in the classroom.

    Enter Ball State University’s Lee Florea (Dept. of Geological Sciences) and  Adam Kuban (Dept. of Journalism). These two recognized the need to bridge the gap between scientists and journalists, and thus GEOL 462/NEWS 397: Environmental Geology in the Lab and Field, was born.*

    The course brings together journalism and geoscience students in a semester-long immersive class. From the syllabus:

    The primary purpose of this course is ‘communicating scientific data to society’. Toward that end, we have established community partners (Flat Land Resources, Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District) to whom we are expected to provide deliverables …. In that framework, my colleague and I have settled upon a consulting format for this project: the community partners are our clients, we are the consultants, and our students are our employees. It will be our role to clearly outline deadlines and benchmarks, establish quality control measures, and serve as mentors to our students and student groups. The students will need to meet assigned deadlines, follow established protocols, and effectively perform on tasks individually and within groups to see the project(s) through.

    Fun, huh? Not only does the class bring together scientists and journalists, but it also includes community groups and businesses in order to create a very practical, real-life experience. Journalism students gain experience in the lab and in the field, and science students get a hefty dose of communication practice across a wide variety of audiences. Results from the pilot semester of the class have been disseminated in several student posters, conference presentations, a website, and radio broadcast.

    *Check out the awesome diversity statement at the beginning of the syllabus. In fact, the syllabus is just plain good reading.