We began class today with a group discussion of the Kirshner, Sweller and Clark (2006) criticism of discovery, inquiry and project-based learning as well as the Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99–107 response to this criticism. Students identified the main critiques made by Kirshner et al, such as:
- Inquiry learning takes up too much of the working memory in the brain, and therefore learning cannot take place.
- Only individuals with sufficient prior experience can learn from self-guidance; students are novices and cannot do this.
- Students of “lower aptitude” perform worse on post-tests than pre-tests.
- Discovery learning can reinforce misconceptions.
- Medical students taught in project-based curricula are less efficient in diagnostic settings and order more tests.
Students noted that the characterization of “minimally-guided instruction” as presented by Kirshner et al was not consistent with the PBI models that have been discussed in class. Barron, Krajcek and Buck paradigms of PBI are all grounded in state standards, have clear learning goals, and (most importantly) significant scaffolding and direct instruction by the teacher. As a result, the critiques of PBI as a form of minimally-guided instruction do not seem valid, as argued by Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007).
Students also objected to the characterization of students as “low-aptitude” and “high-aptitude” and felt that a more holistic view of students is necessary in order to be an effective educator.
During the discussion, a related question about what education is like in other countries arose. Specifically, students were interested in other models of education and how they relate to the common perception that the U.S. is “falling behind” in math and science. Dr. Petrosino thought this was a good question and offered to put together some data and materials for a future lecture.
Dr. Petrosino reminded students that UTeach students often end up in leadership roles in their departments and on their campuses, and that their opinions would likely become influential in the policy and practice in their workplace. Being well-informed on both the supporting evidence for inquiry and PBI and the arguments against it makes their opinions more informed and valuable.
For the rest of class, students rejoined their groups to continue planning their 5-7 day project based around the meter-stick activity. Dr. Petrosino provided some charts with the Barron, Krajcek and Buck requirements for projects in order to scaffold/help students identify what if any elements they were missing from their plans. Students seemed to find these charts to be helpful templates for checking that they had covered the requirements for a good “big P” Project.
Picture: Professor Cindy Hmelo-Silver giving a talk on Project Based Learning in 2009.