Facilitating problem based learning

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Purpose learning :: problem education


Facilitating problem - based learning, a text stumbled across by accident when under the usual amount of pressure at this time in a module.


Facilitating practical design of the use of technology for  social activism, PRADSA, was one of the more recent activities with which I had been engaged.


TRANSvision workshop in Brussels with the European Commission where I was asked whether there be a strong theory on the uptake of technology in society?


One Community implemented for the first time within the framework of the managed learning environment.


So we may make a connection of the following facets: facilitation - education - social activism - design - technology.


Is that necessary and sufficient?


I have heard many terms to describe the sort of learning with which I engage, and something of the ideas, from Paulo Friere backwards to Patrick Geddes, or even Socrates. Simply, I had never heard it called this before, and a search on this had it occurred to me, would have been more than most library catalogues might manage, though not necessarily google.


That is essay point number 1: now there is google and wikipedia, and web2.0.


Here comes methods point number 1: how do we sequence?  The breakdown of linearity.


Of those five facets of what, and here is methods point number 2: there must be a label or a name?    FESTD might do for the moment?  If we called it sex, we could use Foucault.  If rhetoric, Butler?  (Advance warning, we will be inserting gender trouble.)  If design history, Sparke.


This is essay point 2: A lot lies in the name.






Method point number 3: move.




This is the place to start, it is the running of the modules at the moment which is most of matter.


What is called problem based learning, I have used the word purpose about, for problem seems to be the downside, purpose the up side.  Working out what is to be done, who, whom, are the basic keys.


This might already be called scenario planning.  IS that the same same level of abstraction and granularity as problem based learning?  


You will have noticed by now that my categories of essay points and methods points have disintegrated.


That is design activism.


It is isn't the place to start.


The module guide is the place to start.


But it might be managerialism?


Or it might be Blackboard, which is the name given the managed learning environment.  Though apparently there is an attempt to rename it studentspace?


Of course it could be the students.


Or me.


The first response is * they have a right to know * snip


This seems to me perfectly justified.


But they have to have prior knowledge the curriculum.


And this they don't.


Methods insert, that is a scientific statement so needs support by methods.


This concept curriculum and its site in learning is asserted too by facilitation problem based learning (in future( fpbl).


Methods insert: note referencing text not by name of author, thus depersonalising matter in to generality.  Naming device such as fpbl atomises and mechanises process.


But the module guide is still the place to start.


They want it.


Week 1 is also the place to start.


This has to happen.  There is a room, there are students, over these I have absolutely no control or influence at all, and this is not for want of trying.  I can subvert though, for the form of room effects the methods.  I can't remember whether fpbl mentions this, check contents page, check index, reread whole text?  Certainly in facilitating workshops the matter and manner of the spaces is significant.


I have some control over the amount of time, but within a very small space.  There is a fascinating gap in the management of my life and time and money for the work load model measures student contact time, but there is no connection between module and x (where x is something to which I haven't yet given a name.  You either immediately get it or you don't.)


A rod for my own back I have made by giving them four hours.  One hour would have been much better.


There is a common scheme which says that a module is worth 150 hours of their time.  Hour does not map onto aptitude or ability.


There is nothing to say how much of my time should be involved.


Except my contract.


My experience is that my energy is what matters.


I can't find this in fpbl, except for a section on burn-out.


Week 1 for a long time I have used for a session which I once called 2p or not 2p.


It outlines the idea of purpose shaped learning, explaining a purpose, some ideas of appropriate purpose, for this is a final year undergraduate module, in a university, with a course (that is going to cause as much problem as curriculum) validated by a professional association. Appropriate purpose has to have values, both the university and the professional association have the concept good and public in some sort of association (note).


It outlines the concept project.


The final year project is an important part, perhaps the most important part.  The concept project might be a useful concept.  It might also be atomising, mechanising, alienating, fetishising, reifying, but it matters.


The third p is process.


This is my bit, that if we design processes for managing, then we have objects we may reuse.


The final is product, an output, an outcome.  The document submitted for the project would be such a thing.


All these might be seen to be alienating, reifying, fetishising, atomising, mechanising, and without reflection, they are.


Partly, I am in history not of my own making.


In week 1 I also introduce the case.


The case is a method.  There are references to case based reasoning, though I am not sure whether they are the same.  There are case study concepts, societies and journals which collect them.  Whether these are the same things, I'm not sure.  We had once a ISTIP conference series, Teaching in Practice, and a few times I wrote papers for these conferences, the discussion indicated that we knew what we were talking about.  but all that has gone.


The topic for the case has often revolved around transport.  There are a variety of reasons for this which might pop out in autobiography.


When I start the case, I have only the vaguest purpose.  This is because this is also a matter of research.  Shortly before reading fpbl there was a note in my union magazine about research based learning, where envisioning undergraduate students to do real research, so we have another concept or term, which might map onto fpbl?


Last year the case was an organisation called Sustrans.  This year I have started with a report of the Competition Commission, involving railway rolling stock.


The method I use is to give them enough of a reading to allow them to use the tools they have learned on previous modules to gain some starting understanding.  They need to get themselves into groups.  This is why the shape of the room makes a difference.  I could open a side bar, or a footnote, on what we know about group formation, and all that matters.  I don't remember this in fpbl.


I have noticed another matter.  It is no longer the case that there is cohort continuity.  Instead they come to this moment by many manners, and have no certainties.


They are given a note on the method of assessment.


This does receive attention in fpbl and is obviously the nub of many of the matters.


The group must needs submit a report on a common hand in date which is a matter for the course.  I give a guide on the length of the text.


We have moderated marking, and external examination, all this beyond my contriol.  But it is dealt with in part in fpbl.  These all though impact on leaning, education, design activism, and the matter.


So far I have been silent on the matter.


We now have the case.


So we may have the matter?


This isn't the sequence the students have it.


But the matter is information systems.  This is what the IS is.


The module is called Information Systems Strategies.  The first piece of paper they receive is titled What is an IS?


There is a whole bibliography and essay needed on this, which we would never proceed beyond.


So we will leave it.


Having done one small case to warm things up, and facilitate group formation, the class is given the task of preparing a poster for the following week, making what they will of the Case, from the handout, and whatever.  They are even given a piece of paper from a flipchart, and a pen.


There is a matter of method here.


It might be better to do this after about a hour, and bring that first day to a concrete closure.


In other words, I talk for a short while, they work for a short while, I talk for a longer while, outlining 2p or not 2p and the case, then they work for about an hour, then up go the posters, then something happens, then I close with direction for the following week.  This is the way I do the session at the MSc level.


The problem is partly numbers.


As the numbers change, the methods have to change.  I didn't see this in fpbl.


Up to about thirty, the closure method works.  Up to 100 I don't think it does, you simply have a room space shape number problem.  i could put in some photographs.  We also have a technology opportunity and matter.  As we have access to social networking technology, we could change all this.


So week 2 starts with them putting up posters and speaking, briefly, to them.  This takes time.  This might not be sustainable. It also shows there are real differences.  A class of 11 year olds might well have done this better, though it wouldn't have involved these numbers.


Do the numbers prevent anything except lectures?


This also gets us back to my energy matter.


And my obligation.


I have done the work I asked them to do.


I started the session by putting my material up with bluetack, while making bluetack available to them, for there was no chance they would have thought how they would attach posters to wall.  Some of them are still making posters, some are simply starting, it takes a stunning amount of energy, and control of my irritation so it doesn't show, to get some posters onto the walls.


But some of them can speak, and we do have something, all sorts of different stories and all sorts of different methods.  I had asked them not only to do the matter of the case, but to reflect on what they knew, and what they had worked out they didn't know, while they were doing the case.


Then I talked through mine, where I had taken the article, changed the shape and pattern of parts, and rebuilt it to make a structure.  I could photograph parts of this and insert it here, or refer.  Theirs too I could photograph and insert, and then I could comment and so too could they.  Or anyone else.


In order to move forward, there was a second one I had prepared.  This I now gave them as a reading handout.


This was two pages of a paper from one of the electronic journal resources dealing with a matter of methods, Minski, Wiezenbaum, Shannon, and Weaver.  Whether they knew anything of any of this or not I knew not.


But it has a simple matter and by blowing up paragraphs and locating on the wall I replicated the representation of the case, in a different manner, or at another level of abstraction.


By now we have quite a lot of stuff.


And now we do have a problem, which I don't see in fpbl, the matter of the subject.


Discipline or punish.


All education and all learning might be about universality, totality, about self, particularity, about identity and fashoining, and about some stuff in between.


But universals never are, they are about particulars, except perhaps when they aren't.


And that is the knub.


In another universe of discourse we consider KIDMM.


And in another, IS::KO.


But we know the students don't know all this, and we can't do it in one module, but also we can't pretend it isn't.


This is the same sort of matter as the amount of history we need to do any case.  


Railways, transport, is such a matter.


Now by week three, we have people in groups, we have something on matter, something on manner, We have the thread of methods, the thread of IS, the thread of transport.


We also have a changed reality, for there has been crash in the world's financial markets, and a change of Minister of Transport, just to have some sense of scale.


This is another fpbl absence I think, whether dealing with real world real time matters, or artificial, constructed for the game matters?


The pattern for each week settles down, I introduce some new material, they work in groups, I am available for discussion with groups.


This isn't the way i would like it, it is space, numbers, shape, and my energy, and their demands.


By now the matter of managerialism has re-emerged.  The Staff Student Consultative Committee has met, and the student rep has made the usual complaint about them not knowing what they are doing, the absence of a module guide, not knowing what the assessment is.  This has produced a response from a Dean shaped object, and a year tutor.


Bear in mind the assessment outline has been on Blackboard since week 1.


The resistance of students to fpbl is marked in fpbl.


Some of my colleagues have been very supportive of me for a long time, particularly at these meetings which I deliberately don't attend as students would speak less freely were I there, perhaps.


By week 2, the case had sharpened up in an unexpected way, for I had been invited to advise the European Commission on planning transport to 2050.  I had printed out the letter and given it as an handout.


There was to be a meeting round about week 10 so this now gave me the focus for a moment of closure which I wanted.  Last year it was the date of the submission of the bid.  What I mean by all this, is that we  have an end to teaching, and then a date for assessment.  These I have no control over.  So I structure the module so that I facilitate for about ten weeks, then they have five to write up the report for submission on a common hand in date.  That means that the week before I finish, there needs to be a chance for them to present their thinking so far, to me and to one another.  The device adopted is a poster, but with this number I can't have them presenting their posters.  The device I have to organise is they go around and look at the others, and choose between one and four which they think best, then write a couple of side of A4 outlining their reasons, and submit. All this mechanism is because they will do nothing otherwise.


So the question immediately will be, "will the poster be marked?"


Somewhere round about now I ought to go mad.


We have this Blackboard object which allows me to email students, though I get an error message whenever I do, that the message might not have been delivered to some.  The message cannot appear in any of the folders for the module.


But I can message them, murking.


The message function I have used from the beginning to draw out core or important points that I think they should not have missed, and to attempt feedback facilitation.  Their emails to me I respond to almost daily.


The groups by now are at vastly different levels.


I had thought that perhaps the students coming on  one pathway were disadvantaged, so I called a session for them, but this disproved that theory in a moment.  There is one group of more mature, or older, young men who have formed themselves as a group, and I outlined possibly breaking them up so they could become leaders in other groups, to which they were uniformly opposed.


This takes us back to the matter, for strategy in information systems is a metaphor which comes out of war, and transposes to business, or social activism, only tortuously.


But for any sense of strategy there have to be leaders which means there have to be followers.  How may one assess followership?


I don't see this in fpbl?


Strategy in war is the technology of war, and strategy in business, of which education is one, increasingly, means mobile.  This is also social networking, which is social activism, and they all have mobiles, they are txting and communicating continuously, what about I don't know.  Mobile computing also means broadband dongles, and real time connection everywhere, alltime.  Yet I find no use being made of the tools provided by the authority, so they are doing something else.


I don't see any of this in fpbl.  I know also from PRADSA that technology is not understood by people who understand facilitation, as they understand it.  They have their techniques, their methods, and I learned this too from ITDG.


Strategy also involves the matter of sustainable development.  This is a matter too for HEFCE.  It is a matter too for transport, that is part of the reason for the topic, it is technology, social activism, participative method, community planning, and perhaps education.  However in my Faculty I appear to be isolated on this one too.


Sustainable development also raises the issue of ethics, which maps onto the public good, for free markets, private rights, personal greed, more than your fair share, are all to be challenged?  How then do you mark an approach which most, untested, will argue human nature?  identity politics and self-fashioning.  Much of the teaching on other modules is on such matters as electronic shopping, playing games, being an entrepreneur, and other such self-fashioning matters, so there is much about which to argue.  If not in front of the students?


I don't see any of this in fpbl.


There is a further note to add on assessment.


When I mark their reports, I write a feedback which I email to all of them, and put on Blackboard.  They then have the opportunity to appeal against my mark, on the perfectly proper proposition that I have not understood their proposal.  They may write a couple of sides of A4, pointing to their report, my feedback and their submission that they deserve a different mark.  I also start from the proposition that I am marking a report; it is up to them to decide whether the mark should be disequitably distributed for some reason or other.  On this last point they might be expected not to agree.  It is required in the report that there is an evaluation of the module, and of the learning experience.  Here too they may manage.  I will then meet with them, and if need be, change a mark.  This process was discussed with one managerialist body which agreed it a most encouraging method.


Somewhere round about here, or much earlier, we must add blearning, blended learning, e-learning, and all that stuff.  It isn't the same thing as fpbl, but there might be a matrix of the two?  We have done some earlier tests of the knowledge base of the enthusiasts.  Web2.0 perhaps needs another elaboration, along with environments such as Second Life, for these too have their worshippers.  Which gets us to networks.


And by now, we have enough.


Let us summarise.


facilitation - education - social activism - technology -design -. FESTD, with IS, or IS.FESTD.


Transport, Strategy, Sustainable Development.


This gets us to knowledge bases and ontologies, which is more than enough.









space, eol, etc

of course we have had this problem since the beginning here, so nothing new there

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