Let’s Pump the Brakes before Diving Straight into Popular Pedagogies

I think many of the popular pedagogical approaches (problem-based learning, active learning, case-based pedagogies) have expanded to various learning environments and disciplines. This is a good thing, do not get me wrong, but I also tend to stumble upon conversations that talk about how some instructors struggle with implementing those in their classrooms, and some tend to give up saying that “it’s not for me” after several difficult experiences.

I admit personally that many of these approaches can be daunting, and I have not figured out how I would implement them in my future classrooms, nor have I implemented them before. However, I do want to point out that context matters.  Before anyone starts jumping onto the bandwagon of “PBL is good” or “we should do this because it is the right thing to do”, instructors should reflect first on the contexts they are going to be facilitating learning in. Class size, students’ backgrounds, assessment and evaluation requirements, classroom furniture arrangement, course contexts, and even departmental cultures. Not to mention the pandemic we are currently experiencing. Considering all these factors may make implementing these pedagogies less overwhelming and more adaptable. As one of my peers always says: “Start small and short, and evaluate how to move forward.”

Although I have not been an instructor of record, here are some of the strategies I may employ while implementing some of these pedagogical approaches.

  1. Reflect on the different contextual factors about the classroom and document all these factors so that I can visualize it.
  2. Review some articles and research on the approaches, especially those that document implementations of said approaches.
  3. Plan out the structure. Starting small is important, since this will be my first time. This means I may use it for one of the modules in the course, for example, instead of implementing it for the whole course.
  4. Using “backward” design, which suggests setting up the learning outcomes, then assessments, and finally, the pedagogical approaches, I can lay the overall structure of the implementation and module.
  5. Continuously assess in formative manners to gauge students’ experiences during implementation for immediate and future improvements.
  6. Improvise! A friend tells me: “Planning can only do so much. In teaching, you have to improvise sometimes because you cannot anticipate every possible scenario.”

These are some of the strategies I can use in the future, and I definitely am excited about it.

6 Replies to “Let’s Pump the Brakes before Diving Straight into Popular Pedagogies”

  1. This was a great blog post! I know I come from the bias of being in a field that relies heavily on these pedagogies as a primary means of instruction, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness to the different steps anyone – experienced or not with these methods – can use to to decrease any anxiety related to implementing these strategies. I especially enjoyed the step of planning the structure. In our counseling program, we use a saying as supervisors when it comes to working with our supervisees: Supervisors must win the battle for structure, while supervisees win the battle for initiative. Counselor-eze for providing the blueprint/structure that students then get to engage with in their movement toward better understanding and development. Thank you for this!

  2. Hey Kai,
    I really appreciate you sharing the quotes of your colleagues: “start small and short, and evaluate how to move forward” and the bit about improvisation. These are helpful indeed! I also think that you created a strong list of strategies for developing an effective CBL/PBL case. I can feel your excitement about teaching and learning and I am delighted for you! That kind of energy pays off when the students have their priceless “ah-ha!” moments.

  3. Hello,

    This was a very good blog post, and one that I agree with. I think that case-based pedagogy is good in theory, but I also think there are many cases, especially for STEM fields, where it can be problematic. I also suggested a similar approach in my blog post, where case-based pedagogy is used as an aid to “traditional” classes, where students are presented with the necessary information first, then a case-based learning activity is conducted where that knowledge is applied. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but I think that some combination of the two could make for a more productive classroom.

    Austin Garren

  4. KJ– thank you for sharing this! I really like the list you put together and definitely think it’s something I’ll think about moving forward. I also really like the fact that you also pointed out how a physical classroom space is important– I’ve found that a lot of classroom spaces are not designed with group work in mind. Many classrooms do not have furniture that can be easily moved around or furniture that is big enough to facilitate groups (tables as opposed to individual desks). Keeping the physical space in mind is incredibly important as well I think for how we want to position ourselves as instructors; for example, do you want to stand behind a podium or do you want to be on the same level and occupying the same space as students?

  5. Thank you for sharing KJ! Your list is quite comprehensive and definitely a resource I plan on referring to in the future. I especially appreciate your point about using “backward” design. I think many times instructors (me included) think about pedagogical approaches first then assessment. The learning outcomes are extremely important to the success of a classroom, however, many times students are not explicitly aware of these outcomes. I believe that making sure that your classroom methods are aligned and that students are aware of your intentions is critical to the success of these pedagogies.

  6. Hello – I really appreciated the different strategies you provided for implementation. I agree, I think it is important to start small and work your way up to ensure that the modules are implemented correctly and work. Thank you for sharing. Alexandria Rossi Alvarez

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