8 May 2013
In my last post, I described a case study that I came up for a course in which I gave a guest lecture. Because I have already described the course and case study, I will not rehash those details in this post. Please refer to Posting #1 for those details if interested. This second posting is really just to express my thoughts on how this real world case study example went, things that worked well and things that did not, and what I might do differently next time around to improve the case study’s application in a PBL setting.
Things that worked well:
Small class size – About 10 students attended the class that day. This extremely small group size allowed me to interact with every student in the class. I found interacting with each student to be very helpful because even in a class this small, there were 2 or 3 students who immediately stood out as taking the lead in the discussion. Interacting with all the students helped me to involve the other less vocal students, who still had very important and valid things to say but needed encouragement to make themselves heard among the more vocal students in the class. I was surprised by this dynamic because for some reason, I thought that a smaller group size would change the dynamic for less outgoing students, make them more likely to become outgoing and take a lead in discussions. But I found, even in small groups, there are still those few outgoing students who immediately take the lead. I am not against outgoing students, but as a previously shy student myself, I think disrupting this pattern of a few outgoing students leading the class is key to successfully implementing PBL. I think participation by every student on as much of an even level as possible is very beneficial to the class as a whole. Everyone gets to participate, leaders have the opportunity to hear the opinions of less outgoing students and the unspoken are encouraged to have their opinions heard.
Role playing – I ended up splitting the class into two groups, each with about 5 students. Group A was to imagine that they were off-road vehicle users and Group B was to imagine they were bird watchers. These interest groups have completely opposing views in the case study (refer to Posting #1 for more details). I then asked the two groups what they value most and what they would be willing to compromise on. I found that splitting the class into 2 opposing groups worked well because this encouraged some friendly rivalry and also the students got to learn two sides to the story from their fellow classmates.
Things that didn’t work so well:
Time constraint – I would have loved to do more with this class, but the time I was allotted for this lecture was 50 minutes. It still worked out alright because the class was so small but I had to leave out a lot of details from the case study and I feel we only just scratched the surface of key sticking points in this case study. But this brings me to a much larger important point. I find time constraints are a problem for pedagogy in general. This class that I guest lectured in for instance, has such a jam packed syllabus. I think back to my undergraduate degree and even high school. If I think of what I was being taught on a daily basis, I feel as if the main aim of my education has been to cram as much information in my head in as little time as possible. And the same goes for my dissertation work. I feel as if I should be reading many more papers and exploring some aspects of my project in much finer detail, but I simply do not have the time because of all my long laundry list of other tasks I must complete to “get the job done”. This problem I think speaks to a larger movement that has repeatedly come up in GEDI class. The world is become ever more connected, resulting in a mind-boggling rate of information flow that is affecting every single aspect of our lives. If time travel were possible, my main interest in going forward or backward in time is to see how time management has been altered through the years. Were we always like this? Running around trying to cram as much into our busy lives as possible? Imagining what life would be like without electricity probably conjures up images for many of folks sitting by the light of a candle….reading, telling stories. But I have a different image in my mind. I think of a family, waking up at dawn to tend to their cows, chickens, and goats. Rushing to prepare their fields and gardens for planting so that they can have enough food to outlast the following winter. Washing clothes, baking bread, gathering and preserving food, taking care of children, dealing with everyday injuries…..all without any modern technology. I often hear people comment about how bored folks must have been without modern technology. I think on the contrary, they would not have had time to be bored, they barely had time to ensure they made it through the winter. I started gardening a few years ago, at first just a few vegetables. Now I have a much wider array and I do preserve my meager harvest as a hobby. But this takes up so much time that some years, I can’t do it because the dissertation work and other life demands wins out, even when I do try to plan way in advance. If I can barely fit in this one task, I can’t imagine having to do at least twenty other tasks in one day that demand just as much attention. To summarize this long thought, I think time constraints are not a result of modern technology, but an inherent part of our life. I think modern technology has changed we interpret and view time constraints, but I think time will always be a huge constraint as long as we exist. I think we have to ask ourselves not how we should best manage our time but what is the main thing guiding how we manage our time. Is it a form of modern technology? What form of modern technology? How can we use this technology to shape how we manage time?
What I might do differently next time around:
I don’t have time (haha) to answer the questions I ask above. I think for the limited aims of this course (because the main aim of the course it seems is to expose students to a little bit of every kind of wildlife management out there and not go into depth with anything), I would not change anything, because I feel I accomplished my goal in giving students a taste of what coastal management is like. But I do feel that had this been my course, I would have been faced with the very hard decision to either give students a taste of everything OR leave out some kinds of wildlife management in order to really delve into one kind. I think if it were up to me, I might have given serious consideration to the latter option because there are a lot of similarities among the different kinds of wildlife management, but you are never going to get a true sense for the level of some challenges that you will inevitably face in wildlife management if you do not truly get involved in a real life case study. I cannot change this within the confines of one guest lecture, so I will summarize here by saying I think the students came away with a sense of some of the challenges inherent in coastal management and that I would use this case study again because it can be easily modified to achieve a wide range of teaching goals. It could even be simplified for a much larger gen ed class, although I highly doubt 50 minutes would be enough time with such a large group.