As I sit here, reflecting on PBL and how to best implement this teaching strategy in my class, I am consumed by many different emotions. These emotions range from excitement to fear at the prospect of what my classroom will look like, but more importantly what will my students actually gain from this process.
The challenges that I foresee, leading to my sense of fear, are around the students themselves and their willingness to go along with the process. We all have those students who will do anything we ask of them and those that would stop breathing just because you told them to take a breath. My fear is based around those students who are either so put off by school that they are completely apathetic or are so angry that they will not be willing to try something new. How then can a teacher who has five classes of 32 students motivate the one or two students a period that fit this category? These students provide a challenge, not only to me the teacher but to their group as well. If they choose not to participate then the group they are with will be resentful towards the project, because they will have to pick up the slack for others. This snowballing affect is the biggest struggle that I foresee during this process. Those students that are engaged should not be penalized because another in their group is not. How best to deal with that issue is what I struggle with as I get ready to introduce a PBL activity to my classes.
I know that along the way numerous issues will pop up that I will not be prepared for. However, in teaching I find that most days the students come up with questions and comments that I had not thought of or anticipated. For that reason, my confidence level in trying something as radically different as PBL is high, in regards to the management of the process. I also have the luxury of being a new teacher in my building, so if something does not go smoothly I can always blame it on being new.
The final, and obvious, management issue is time. Yet, this is not going to be the big issue that others might have to face. My administration wants us to implement at least one PBL activity a semester. This means that the time needed to work on these projects is already understood by the administration, so no justification is needed for a long thought provoking unit.
While I have many fears as to what can go wrong with this unit, I am focused on the positives that can come from the projects successful completion. These benefits, which have been proven through research, are pushing me forward into changing my classroom and my role as an educator. I am positive that the teacher I become, as a result of this experience, will be one that allows students to express themselves individually and will surprise and shock me at every turn.