Students not reading directions….

September 11, 2007

Thus far, I have been having some trouble with students reading the directions related to the first Task, which is by far the most self-explanatory. This is one of the most difficult early challenges of problem-based learning which is overcoming student learned helplessness. This often occurs when they are used to highly teacher-led classes in which there is little independent student thought and directions are mercilessly direct to the point where there is no question as to the right answer.

In PBL, where there is no “right answer” students struggle a bit initially until they realize that, other than restating the directions exactly as they were originally stated but with additional references to resources and redirection to their peer groups, I’m not going to give direct instruction, then they start to get it.

I worry about it and the stress that it puts on both them and me until I receive things like the following which was posted by a former student of mine in someone else’s class today:

“A couple of semesters ago I had Dr. Warren’s class, “classroom computers.” He was the best professor I’ve ever had. He is a cognitivist/constructivist kind of teacher and although I thought at times he was not directing me in the way I would like to be directed (I line all of my ducks in a row), he challenged me to think for myself. He let us take the role of learner and he gave the class amazing resources for our future teaching. I think he was so good because he had been a teacher for about 10 years in the public school system…that helps.”

It makes me feel like we are making some progress, but in other instances also feels like I am really combating some incredibly ingrained behaviors and preconceived notions on the part of the students that walk in my very strange classroom.

I would love it if we had a class or two that all new undergrads and transfers had to take their first semester that introduced them to learning with: a.) online courses, b.) blended course, c.) PBL, d.) working in groups, e.) how to think critically and creatively, and f.) student-led/self-directed course, just to acclimate them to these education phenomena that are present in college where they may not have been in high school or elsewhere. I wish I had had that kind of course in college….

Ah, to dream…;)

On another positive note, beyond the book chapter we had accepted last week (with revisions) and the two presentations we have at the Association for Educational Computing and Technology (?) Conference in October, I also receive surreptitious positive feedback on one of our AERA proposals on The Door v1 from a friend who recognized from previous discussions and reviewed it. He gave it high marks and looks forward to seeing it. The seeing it as a distributed system that exists in many places at once, I explained, is sometimes a problem…


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