So, the question of the week is what pedagogical rationale is there for using a Problem Based Learning method? My answer has to be that it addresses the issues of metacognition, multiple intelligences and differentiated learning styles, with the aim that the students become life long learners.
My curriculum states that I must engage the students in metacognition. To quote the program of studies “Essentially, metacognition involves reflection, critical awareness and analysis, monitoring, and reinvention.” This most certainly fits the initial research I have undertaken as to the constructivist approach described in the edutopia website. The whole idea of students reflecting on what has worked, and just as importantly, what has not worked, is a vital component of my teaching philosophy. The ability to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes is not just good teaching practice, it is a skill much needed after High School ends. A summative examination with no chance for feedback gains the student very little, robing them of an opportunity to acquire important real-world based knowledge
Other classmates have already pointed out the obvious pedagogical tie-in with Gardner's multiple intelligences. This is a driving force with our Curriculum and Instruction Department, and a foundation of the Unit by Design template we, as a division, are encouraged to incorporate into all our unit planning. I really see the value of introducing this concept to my students, and watching them begin to reflect upon who they are and what really matters to them. Differentiated learning styles means that each student can direct the planning of the PBL to better suit their own needs, be they auditory, visual or tactile/kinesthetic. I have had students begin a project, one where they are to teach a concept to other classmates, by polling the group as to their preferred method of learning. Powerful use of thinking I would say. These two approaches really do maximize the chances that the student will have a better than average chance of constructing meaning from the project.
One of the most important goals of education in this century has to be desire to have all students become life long learners. This means taking what they have previously learned and using that repository of information to tackle all problems thrown at them in their chosen areas of employment. The fact that students have the chance to leave High School having been engaged in learning that they planned, as well as being exposed to reflective practises that illuminate who they are, must certainly give them the confidence that they can continue to grow and prosper regardless of where life takes them.
While the PBL model of instruction cannot be used for all types of learning situations, when used properly it can be an effective method of instruction for achieving Wiggins and McTighe's three fundamental goals of education: the acquiring of important information and skills, making meaning of the content and transfering of that knowledge to new situations.