Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trying to Think

I’m not a strict Problem Based Learning (PBL) person, but I am one who loves to try to make my students think. Actually, I love to think so I just assume my students should also. It isn’t always true.

Suppose I gave this problem to my students:

What is the measure of angle C?

Even my best students would probably give this problem about five minutes before giving up. They simply don’t know HOW to go about finding the answer.

I have noticed that as soon as I start asking students to think they often just shut down. Problem solving at its core is a creative endeavor. Students must transfer the problem from English, or better yet an observation, decide what the actual problem is, devise a strategy of attack, evaluate the effectiveness, and often times start over again from the beginning. Or as illustrated:

Picture found at Man With No Blog.

The problem is students are in school and as Sir Ken Robinson is so famous for saying, “Schools Kill Creativity”.

When asking student to take the time to solve a problem they often don’t know where to start. So it might help to list everything they know about the particular subject as a class before hand. As the students get used to this practice they will start to learn to anticipate what they will need to know by what you get excited over, so to counter act this it might do to start putting big posters on the walls entitled what we know about _______. This in turn becomes a resource for students to use throughout the year.

So the thought goes: Students have been socialized into thinking school is a place where knowledge is given not developed. Students generally don’t or won’t think for themselves. If we start slow we can re-teach our students to use their own brains. If students are asked to use what they know to solve problems without being lead by the hand eventually they will start to work on their own. The end goal of course is to get students to put some value on the knowledge they possess. I guess in the hope that they will apply it when needed.

Please share some of your favorite tactics for getting students to work on their own.

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