Toward the beginning of the semester, our class was asked to participate in the UTeach Engineering research project, for which Dr. Petrosino is one of the primary researchers. Those who chose to participate spent the first thirty minutes of class filling out a post-survey. This survey was meant to see how pre-service teachers feel about PBI after they have experienced the majority of the course meant to teach PBI.
After completing the survey, our TA, Tara Craig, began a discussion over the article we read prior to class, “Why Minimally Guided Teaching Techniques Do Not Work: A Reply to Commentaries” by Sweller, Kirschner, and Clark. She began by showing us a Wordle created from the text in the article.
In the above "wordle," words that appear more often in the text are larger and those that appear less often are smaller. Tara reminded us that anyone can make wordles at “wordle.net” and how wordles might be a useful tool for visualizing important themes in texts and for inspiring discussion in our future classrooms. She also reminded us about the presentation tool Prezi, found at “prezi.com” and informed us that you can get more advanced options if you use an email address ending in “.edu”. We also very briefly discussed how students and ourselves could use this tool.
We then began a discussion centered on the arguments presented by Sweller, Kirschner, and Clark. One student mentioned that the article focused heavily on memory and cognitive load, arguing that with minimal guidance and heavy problem solving, students are using too much working memory, which impedes their long-term memory. Another student mentioned that the article stressed the methodology in the studies that showed PBL and IL as effective ways of learning, arguing that these were not well done because there were no control groups. At this point, students launched into a discussion about their experience in inquiry based classrooms at the University level. They argued that in these types of classrooms, they have learned more. Specifically, one student who is taking two physics classes simultaneously, one inquiry and one traditional, has found that she “understands” much more from the inquiry-based physics class than from the traditional class. She also pointed out that the traditional physics class follows the “work example” model argued to be effective in the article, and yet she does not find this helpful in class lectures.
Experiences with other types of inquiry-based classes sparked a discussion on the effectiveness of different levels of inquiry in a high school classroom. For example, students commented that in the “old-fashioned” sense, the “Moore Method” would not be an effective style of teaching in the high school classroom. Some students went on to state that if one wanted to use this method in the high school classroom, then major scaffolding would also need to be employed. Some students then commented that the authors Sweller, Kirschner, and Clark would argue that this method would take too long, and it would be faster and better to simply give students the information. Students also remarked that yet other experiences with for example, Dr. Marshall’s inquiry-based physics class have given students an idea of how PBI would look and be successful in the high school math or science classroom.
Next, the discussion veered toward an argument for PBL and Inquiry Learning. In another class, a student had heard a guest lecturer who brought up a good point: “Why do students need to come to class when they could simply watch the lecture online at home?” Supporters of PBL and IL would say that, unlike direct instruction, the student plays an active role in the class, participating and interacting with the teacher and other students. This, in turn, led into a discussion on the usefulness of direct instruction in certain cases.
One student offered a good experience with a high school calculus teacher who mainly or only used direct instruction, saying that she learned a lot in that class. Other students pointed out that direct instruction, when done well, or when utilized at the proper time, could be very effective. Now, with all of that said, a couple students made the comment that even though we have conceded that pure direct instruction can be effective, it is not fun for students and furthermore it may not be effective for all types of students in that “good students” will pay attention and take notes, but not all students are so disciplined. In essence, we should use direct instruction wisely.
This concluded our discussion for the day, and the last ten to fifteen minutes of class were spent working on our group Legacy Projects.
Each day in PBI a different student takes responsibility for blogging about what goes on in class. Today’s blog is brought to you by Rita.