Problem Based Learning: The Apprentice?

Those that know me will know that I am a fan of Problem-Based Learning, usually referred to as PBL.Ireland’s version of “The Apprentice” is being aired on TV3 and watched by many including our household. The idea is that contestants are fighting it out to get a big job as apprentice to Bill Cullen (Ireland’s best known, self-made entrepreneur). For each episode the contestants are asked to complete authentic tasks usually with a sales or design element.We get to see them work in groups, select a project manager, set goals, solve problems and think and act creatively. As television it’s quite absorbing and informative and there is plenty of learning taking place, for the contestants and vicariously, for the the viewers. When I first watched these sequences I was impressed to see a good instructional approach transferred to television. However, all this is let down by the final sequences of each programme. These scenes take place in the boardroom where groups are asked to report on the process.Bill is naturally a good teacher and in fairness, he tries to balance his negative criticism with supportive comments. But the show’s structure calls for an inevitable reduction by one contestant (you’re fired!) Read More …

Knowledge Surveys

I came across an interesting piece on Knowledge Surveys from Edward Knuhfer and Dolores Knipp (linked above). They advocate the use of Knowledge Surveys as a tool in support of learning and instruction.These surveys consist of a series of questions – similar to a set of exam questions – but the difference is that the learner is asked not to answer the question but to rate their own ability to respond. For example – consider the following questions: Q1 Describe three characteristics of an constructivist theory of learning? Q2 Compare constructivism with social constructivism? Q3 Outline practical applications of a behaviorist approach to learning? Now, in a traditional assessment the student would be asked to write short essays on the above. With a knowledge survey the student is asked to rate their level of knowledge as: A – I feel confident that I could answer this question B – I know about 50% of what may be involved and perhaps if I went away for twenty minutes I could find the missing information C – I am not confident that I would be able to answer this question at all Do you get the gist? The knowledge survey gauges a Read More …

The Skillful Teacher

I came across this quotation from Confucius many months agoand I have been waiting for an opportune time to include it in my blog.Please forgive Confucius for his use of the term ‘man’ only in his descriptionof the skillful teacher. The most skillful teachers I know are women. When a superior man knows the causes which make instruction successful, and those which make it of no effect, he can be a teacher of others. Thus in his teaching, he leads and does not drag; he strengthens and does not discourage; he opens the way but does not conduct to the endwithout the learner’s own efforts. Leading and not dragging produces harmony. Strengthening and not discouraging makes attainment easy. Opening the way and not conducting to the end makes the learner thoughtful. He who produces harmony, easy attainment, and thoughtfulness may be pronounced a skillful teacher.– Confucius,Book XVI – HSIO KI (Record on the Subject of Education)Isn’t it remarkable how Confucius seems to capture all that we would nowcall best practice in teaching others.She leads but does not dragMost learning practitioners would agree with this – for adults the mantrais adults learn what they want to learn and what they find Read More …