In our PBL assignment, we collected good practices and main principles of online and blended learning. I enjoyed having conversations with my group mates, and I also found it quite exciting to reflect on my own practice and link theory and practice together. As theory, we built on seven principles from the book Teaching in blended learning environments. The page numbers below refer to this book.
I elaborated on two subtopics: Support purposeful inquiry and Ensure that inquiry moves into resolution. I think these fit together quite nicely. Since our group submission is quite condensed, I add my detailed text below. This text was my main contribution to our PBL conversations.
Support purposeful inquiry
- Encourage students to be driven by own interests and relevant challenges, e.g. by forming groups to work to study cases or phenomena which are relevant to their (future) working contexts. Students organize themselves to working groups of c. 3–5 persons and deliver small-scale projects. The projects should relate to the course topic, of course, and to their own life realities (relevant challenges, phenomena, own interests, etc.) – this makes learning more meaningful. Purposefulness also means that students define their aims/goals with the small-scale projects so they can formulate their questions and define their methods and tools of investigation. Finally, students get answers to their relevant questions. – There can be a list of potential topics (or topics from previous courses) for inspiration but we can encourage students to deviate from such lists. – My own practice: students get informed about the main, general topics of the course in the first f2f meeting + online (syllabus), then they write posts about their interests and learning goals (very briefly so that peers really have time to read others’ posts). They post in time so everybody can read and comment on others’ posts. I as teacher also read the posts and make notes to facilitate group formation – but I don’t present my notes only if I see the group has difficulties with establishing groups. In general, small project groups are formed in a f2f workshop quite efficiently and quickly because students know others’ interests and in the f2f workshop they purposefully search for coursemates whose interests seem to be close to theirs.
- Track the development of the group projects through tasks, discussions and reflection to make students recognize how their learning proceeds. It is a good idea to apply sub-tasks (milestone tasks, if you like) to help students working with course materials and with their own projects. Group discussions can go online or in the f2f meetings. It is important to gather the ideas of such discussions, e.g. on posters (f2f workshops – photos on posters can be posted online) and discussion areas (online). It is important that the teacher follows students’ posts and builds on them when discussing course content (e.g. in short lectures, instructions, intro to group discussion, posts in the learning platform, etc.) so that (i) students see that their work is acknowledged and used, and (ii) they get feedback and support for their own individual learning and their group projects. – My own practice: I organize learning circles to discuss course literature in f2f meetings. Discussion can continue in the learning platform. Also I ask students to post a critical presentation of a piece of literature which supports their group projects. Also group projects are shared with the whole community in the form of online posts and f2f presentations. It is important that throughout the whole process, students discuss literature with and write assignments to a real, wider audience (their teacher + peers), and that group projects are discussed continuously from ealy on, so that students understand where their investigation is heading. As result of discussions, students often change their project topics to various extent, so discussions help them realize what would be really important, useful and meaningful to themselves and to their peers. Sure, teacher feedback also helps them in deciding which directions to take.
Ensure that inquiry moves into resolution
- “Make the cognitive progression explicit. Assist students through layered activities that build on each other through triggering events, exploration, and integration, to resolution.” (p. 58) – My practice: I regularly ask students to report on how their work proceeds, what they need still to go, what the limitations are, etc. When carrying out a project, is is important to know (i) what they already know/can apply, (ii) what they still need to know to reach their goal (e.g. answer research questions), (iii) and what they’ll never be able to answer with their project (because of the limitations of the methods)
- “Teach committed relativism; have students take a position and defend it, knowing that there are multiple perspectives and layers of authoritative knowledge (Perry, 1981)” (p. 58). – My practice: with my students in the Language Aware Multilingual Pedagogy program, we take different entry points to language to study the same phenomenon in different ways, recognizing the benefits and limitations of certain approaches (see my co-authored paper). Doing so, they understand better what they resolve and what they leave unresolved/untouched in their work.