Today’s PBI class involved discussion of the article “Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark,” followed by a brief overview of resources for further development of our Legacy Cycle projects, and in-class time to work on the projects.
In the discussion of Hmelo’s response to the Kirschner article, Hmelo makes many main points emphasized by students in the class. Hmelo characterizes two main flaws with Kirschner et al’s argument, the first being pedagogical and the second being their evidentiary base. In addition to these main points, students emphasized the arguments that they identified such as, the research showing the effectiveness of Project-Based and inquiry learning. A student pointed out that the article included the statement, “There was no evidence that they learned more during PBI.” Many studies show that PBI is more effective in the long-term memory aspect. In the Kirschner article, they define learning, and the research shows that they learn according to that definition and goal for the students. This spoke to the fact that the critical definition placed in the Kirschner article added solidity and credibility to their argument, based on that aspect alone. A great point made by another student was that “Kershner is critical of when student have to come up with things themselves. In the response, they made good points about how student’s thinking is narrowed by scaffolding and students are guided at points. Kershner makes is sound as if there is no guidance at all.” With our continual discussion, throughout this semester, of scaffolding and how to properly guide students, this was an excellent point. Although it is being criticized, there is a technique to scaffolding and it is apparent that there has to be structured instruction, even if it is minimal so that it is optimal for students’ understanding.
The second topic of the discussion was if or not Hmelo miss anything in the response to Kirschner et al. Several significant observations of the class included the fact that they did not include much concerning interest and effectiveness of creating student interest and engagement, how many goals of PBI and Inquiry Learning are not yet incorporated into the current goals of education, and how the “hidden curriculum” has become inverted within higher levels of education. These observations from the article bring up many points that have come along in the Uteach curriculum and this course, specifically. We know that as future educators, we have to develop our techniques and experience in appealing to all students and engaging them in the curriculum and classroom environment. Although the article was looking at effectiveness overall, engagement is the first step of many successful models of classroom curriculum. Speaking to the current goals of education, we see that this is a constant battle for becoming more literate in different types of instruction that are innovating ideas and way in which to educate students as best we can in the future. Having carried out our own PBI lessons and having experience with Inquiry Learning throughout our time in the Uteach program, it is a heavy topic as to whether we are realistically able to observe these methods of instruction in practice today, and how long it will be before there is a sweeping move in curriculum towards something new with different goals and objectives for students. The “hidden curriculum” held by teachers is a topic of interest that many teachers feel the need to discuss in high school. The point made was very accurate in that it is inverted in high school, and not relayed much in the lower grades. This speaks to the balance held by teachers in preparing students not only academically, but in other areas of life to be consumers of knowledge in general. A valuable comment made by a classmate and elaborated on by our teaching assistants, Sara and Tara, was that “different goals will bring along more retention and understanding in the future, and an overall goal that teachers have is for students to be better consumers of math and science as adults.” This aspect of teaching is exciting and gives more flexibility, but it has to be carefully moderated with our education goals today. As future educators, there is much to experience and learn in this aspect in order to guarantee students the most valuable education possible as adults.
The last question discussed in relation to the article was if Hmelo ignored any claims made in the Kirschner article. Many students pointed out very key ideas in the article, such as the idea of “acting like a scientist” and how that fosters learning to be a scientist and the aspect of adapting knowledge and making is meaningful to students in the classroom. The first idea offered much discussion on the aspect of “acting.” Most of the class agreed that there is a great danger in students being able to act or perform, and actually not learning critical thinking skills or using their individual creativity. Also, a question posed by our TA, Sara, was “what are students getting out of the class that they can’t get online?” This was a great point to be made in today’s age of information. The point was made that we need to make information out as something more than just a collection of things.
Overall, this discussion has highlighted both sides of the arguments surrounding some aspects of PBI and Inquiry Learning. The rest of the class time was devoted to further developing our Legacy Cycle projects.