Tuesday, August 01, 2006

High rollers

I took the time yesterday to look up some resources on problem-based learning. While much of the literature still concerns itself with medicine (the field in which PBL first arose and became widespread), there were a few sources that gave information on PBL in nonmedical settings, and there were a number of medical sources which provided useful hints on making PBL work in a more generic setting. (The Problem-Based Learning Initiative at Southern Illinois University has proven helpful for some of their suggestions.)

First and foremost among their hints (surprise, surprise) is that in the PBL setting, students must be held responsible for their own learning. This ratchets up the stakes: there are definitely greater risks involved when you're asked to take charge of your own learning. The stakes are high for me, too, obviously: I've got to make sure that the students have access to the skills they need to face the challenges I'll be presenting to them as the semester progresses, if we can ever hope to achieve that elusive "Flow" state.

With stakes this high, things are bound to be interesting this coming semester. I'm going to start off the syllabus for the course with a line or two from David Mamet regarding the vibrancy of theatrical drama produced by actors who've raised their stakes as high as they can go.

I finished the day yesterday by swinging by the room where I'll be teaching 365 next semester. It's pretty spacious, and the desks'll be easy to move. There's not a good deal of blackboard space, but I'll manage, as I hope to be less dependent on boardspace than I've been in previous courses. There's plenty of light, too, and that should be nice.

Having finished up with the design of learning activities appropriate to the stated course goals, I'm going to spend some time this afternoon putting together the "overall scheme of learning activities" based upon the seven primary foundational concepts I want the students to master (vectors, matrices, vector spaces, linear independence, linear transformations, determinants, and eigenstructures). Castle-top diagrams? Nah...that's just not my style. Maybe more of a flowchart. Who knows? I figure I'll end up with some more "wall art" of some form, though.

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