PBL and the Role of the Instructor

While I have yet to fully embrace PBL in my classroom, for the past few years, I have been trying to embrace one aspect of it in my classroom.  That is getting me out of the spotlight as the teacher and shining that light on the students.  As I have learned more about general technology integration education, i have come across a number of different ways of teaching.  One of these is the so-called “flipped classroom.”  There are many debates going on about what this style of teaching means and whether or not it changes education or not, one thing it changed in me is that I am now very aware that the students need to be more active than me during classes.

For Project Based Learning, student involvement is crucial.  The learning experience is essentially developed by students (with guidance) in the hopes of making it relevant and meaningful to the students.  They pursue the ideas, the develop the products, they learn to evaluate their own work.  So, what do I do?  I step aside and let them learn.  I let them struggle, but also let them know I am there for help.  I step in when things seem to be veering way off course and I offer encouragement on a regular basis.  Essentially, I unlearn everything I know about teaching and learn to work with my students in new ways.

Doing this is scary (as it is for the students) because it is new.  However, I am also fueled by the belief that this creates a better learning situation for my students.  As I said, the students will be covering new ground too.  My guess is that they will be unsure of themselves.  Ideally, excitement about their work will help them overcome this, but, if not, it falls upon me to provide enough structure to keep them moving forward until they gain the skills they need.  Will they develop these skills?  Perhaps not right away, but over time, they can learn from their errors and pursue new ways and develop new skills to improve.  Now THAT is authentic learning!  My guess is that it won’t take long before we all see that we are all learning together.

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