Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PBL Symposium 11 - 12 Jun 09 (Part 10): PBL and Public Libraries

[From Part 9]

OK, my final post regarding the Three-day PBL symposium. No substantial insights, I've to qualify.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I didn't have any specific expectations of the symposium. My main aim was to get some insights on Problem Based Learning (PBL). To get a feel of the trends and what educators are thinking/ doing.

I started without any real appreciation of what is PBL. At the end, I can say I've internalised some aspects the Republic Poly's One Day One Problem approach). Come to think of it, this series of PBL posts is my Reflective Journal for the conference.

PBL is definitely not a teaching-fad. But it's not a complete replacement for all teaching methods.

To paraphrase Dr. Mark Serva (Day-1) a lecture format is still an efficient way to deliver information. If the intent is to deliver information in an efficient manner.

I'm careful to put a question-mark at the end of the header. I've not gone through any substantial PBL situation, so I'm not sure how much scrutiny is given to the information that students cite as part of their information search.

Maybe their quality of information (or lack of) will reveal itself, as facilitators probe and ask students to justify their responses.

It's clear with PBL there is no prescribed text-book.

I know what you might think next: The Internet is the main resource for students taking PBL classes, right?

Probably true.

Ah, here's the good news (for librarians): Sharen the RP librarian, who gave me the tour, told me their students also recognise that not all answers are found on the Internet. They would turn to the RP library.

But not all students are aware of all books and library materials that might be relevant. And they may not ask the librarians.

BTW, I suggested to Sharen that their library blog could interview students who have used a particular library collection (e.g. book). Instead of featuring book reviews per se, just ask students simple questions like "Why did you choose this book?", "Which part did you find relevant to the Problem you're working on right now?".

Here goes:
  • Students exposed to the PBL way are also comfortable with independently searching for information, as part the learning experience.
  • PBL makes students adopt an independent self-learning approach; which forms the basis of life-long learning.
  • They are exposed to the library as a resource.
  • As adults, they carry this habit, mindset and impression of the library with them.
The logical, albeit simple, conclusion: PBL ensures the viability of libraries in the long term?

OK, just pure speculation at this point.

But at some level, I can't help but feel that a PBL approach to learning can be connected with public libraries. For instance, let's say more institutions (even company training departments) adopt a PBL approach to learning at some level. For PBL, one big support infrastructure needed is access to information. The Internet is one source and the public library is the other one.

Going purely from my feel from the symposium, I think the legitimacy of PBL is not in question. Educators are also generally aware what PBL is good for, and what learning situations it may not be appropriate (e.g. where student maturity and self-motivation is low).

The real question seems to be how to go about implementing PBL (especially tackling the challenge of already having a traditional teaching curriculum in place) and how to assess PBL's outcomes and effectiveness relative to typical teaching approaches.

Which then means the traditional "teacher-focus" approach will still be the most widely used.

At least for now.

(Twitter hashtag #pbl09w)

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