Whenever I do a professional development seminar I start by asking educators to write down the top three reasons why kids don’t learn. As one of the reasons, 94 percent of them put down that kids are not engaged or not interested. Yet it doesn’t seem ironic to those educators that they are writing something down that is within their control. Why aren’t kids engaged and what’s the solution?
This leads us to relevancy and to PBL. When kids see the relevancy to the topic as it connects to their lives they do better at internalizing the concepts they need to master. This is still not new information, but as educators we finally have a methodology that has profound effects on helping students see the relevancy. Termed Project Based Learning (PBL), the idea here is that students do projects around a topic to help them understand. But if the project is not rooted in a real issue, then just doing a project doesn’t bring the kids any closer to understanding. I suggest we adopt Problem Based Learning so that students are involved in endeavors that solve problems, showing them why they should learn about this topic. During one of my workshops in Michigan a 2nd grade teacher asked her students to think of a problem they wanted to solve. Her learning objectives were around planning and writing. The students felt an important issue in their lives was the disrespectful use of the bathrooms and they embarked on a mission to engage their school community in changing their bathroom ways. The teacher was amazed at the perseverance and mastery the students demonstrated. So let’s rename it – Problem Based Learning.
Author: Ray Ann Havasy, Ph.D, Ed.D