Joined: 19 Oct 2011
Problem-Based Learning-A Story to Share
I’d like to dedicate my next few posts to the topic of problem-based learning.
It is certainly a method that motivates students, helps them develop valuable how-to learn skills, and makes learning relevant. Before I get into the particulars, I’d like to use this blog to share a true story illustrating the power of teaching through problems.
(Please feel free to share your stories of problem-based learning or post comments by visiting the Gifted/Enrichment group at http://community.educationworld.com/content/problem-based-learning-story-share-0?gid=NTEyMQ==)
There was no doubt Max loved history.
He devoured books, videos, anything on the subject.
A gifted fifth-grader, Max was often frustrated in school. Testing results showed that Max knew the material being taught in class each day. But in his mind, Max had a much bigger problem. The subject he adored--social studies—was not being taught in class nearly as much as he wanted.
With limited hours and testing pressures, history took a backseat to other subjects---a fact that young Max clearly understood. What this bright youngster didn’t realize was that he could do something about it.
After demonstrating mastery of the regular curriculum, Max “earned” time to work on an independent investigation. His project involved studying the life and times of William The Conqueror.
However, as his teacher of gifted, I noticed that as Max worked on his project, he kept agonizing over the fact that social studies wasn’t given the kind of attention that he believed it deserved. That’s when the light bulb went off.
“Why not do something about it?” I asked him. “Why not make that your project?”
“Really? That could be my project,” he responded.
“Why not?” I said. “It’s what you’re truly passionate about.”
From that point on, I worked with Max to create an outline for the project, which included researching state standards for social studies, reading position papers by social studies advocacy groups, and interviewing a social science professor at the University of South Florida. His legwork also included surveying teachers and researching technology that could streamline instruction. He also discovered that the school’s media center had a collection of animated history videos, which were not being used.
After fully understanding the problem, Max’s focus turned to generating a list of creative ways to “squeeze” social studies into the school day. He organized all his findings into a PowerPoint and presented his case to the school’s principal, who was so impressed that she granted him permission to share his work with the entire faculty.
Needless to say, Max was proud of himself, and I was extremely proud of him as well. He was able to take a problem and generate a creative solution. Hopefully, through this project, Max learned that problems do not have to frustrate or paralyze him but rather can serve as opportunities for growth and learning.