We Still Love John

October 14, 2009

Aileen’s musings

Filed under: #5: review and evaluation, e-portfolio — ingenuity @ 4:47 pm

PBL is an interesting and relevant way to make the subject come alive for students and I would be keen to introduce this method to my higher-ability students. While there were some powerpoint lectures, most of the time we were conducting self-directed learning as a group based on what we wanted to learn, how we wanted to learn and why we wanted to learn. I found there was a good mix between the lectures and student group learning in the course. The scenarios were also very intriguing as they sounded exactly like real students and real issues we would meet in teaching. As such, there was a strong motivation on our part to do justice to John from scenario 3 (our selected scenario). We had discussed it over and although John’s scenario was the longest and most complicated, it was exactly the reality of the scenario, and the fact that we would have students like John, that compelled us to opt for it. It is rather amusing that our group had an affectionate relationship with John right from the start – our blog was termed “We Still Love John” and our discussion would revolve around how he feels and his perspective of others. I think this helped us to really treat the problem seriously as we would if John were a student of ours.

However, the more I placed myself in his shoes, the more I felt for him and the harder it was to see myself acting differently. This made me realize that when we or our students are facing problems and are depressed, it is not easy to climb out of the rut alone. We know that we are not supposed to feel or think this way, but unfortunately sad people will ruminate more than they act. So although we aimed to help John help himself, sometimes it helps to have a good friend or guiding mentor (the teacher!) to see us through and get out of inertia. While it is easy to give advice, the person receiving it will find it difficult to change. As teachers we have to beware of “talking down” to students or we might come across as condescending. Also, John’s teachers will have to be patient with him and not rush him to immediately think more positive. Hence, small improvements should be a cause for celebration so that the process becomes just as important as the end result (if not more important).

The biggest challenge in our group would probably have to be linking the different topics up, and I am pleased with the hard work that everyone did to consolidate all the information. Previously, my knowledge was mostly limited to cognitive psychology, and it was interesting to view the problem from a positive psychology and resilience point-of-view. The result is a richer, vibrant and more holistic outlook on how to help John than if we were to simply look at the problem from one perspective. Also, our teaching skills were tested: we had to ‘teach’ each other the research we had come up with. Thus, PBL also supports the idea that solving problems is most effective when it is viewed via many perspectives and using a variety of methods to get around the problem.

All in all, PBL was meaningful, training us to be more disciplined and sensitive to students’ backgrounds and needs whilst fostering positive thinking and important problem solving skills.

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