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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.



    9 responses to “Problem Based Learning: Are We Missing Half of the Picture?” RSS icon

    • I know what you mean. I too struggle with group work. It is a great experience when you have a group that works well together and everyone participates. On the same hand they can be disastrous when you feel like you are doing all of the work! When it works, I have found that the experience is quite rewarding and been shown different ways of approaching problems that I may not have come up with on my own.

      • Both of you make such good points. Something that I have struggled with in a group work setting. What happens if you are in a group, one person in the group wants to control everything. Yet you know that the direction they want is the wrong one? But because they are a “bully” you get no where and no one else wants to speak up!

    • Yes, I agree. I think PBL can and should have components of both teamwork and individual work. There’s no reason why you can’t have students work on case studies or other types of PBL on their own. As I think you mentioned in class, students also need to be able to think critically on their own, as well as in groups. Certainly during the PhD I need to do a lot of higher order thinking on my own, especially before putting my ideas and results before a broader audience and asking for their feedback.

    • Yes, I totally agree with you. Both group and individual work are needed. Simply, each one of them is of importance since they train you differently to gain different set of skills.

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