How Can Students Solve Real World Issues With Problem Based Learning

Problem based learning is known widely for the real time learning experiences it provides to students.

PBL helps students make meaning of content in more lasting ways than lecture. Asking students to solve problems and learn their way out in itself is an experience for them helping them to discover ways in which they can solve issues at hand. When educators practice this approach, they often provide students with hypothetical problems or issues and then students have to work their way out, meanwhile learning in process.

Imagine, if students are introduced to real world issues like poverty, illiteracy, waste management and more such at hand. This way they develop an understanding of these important issues that needs to be addressed on an individual level and as an educator you fulfill your responsibility to make your students aware, responsible as well as put them in a position to bring and be the change.

Before you start to plan introducing students to these issues, there are certain things that need your attention and for those you may ask yourself the following question:

- What content and skills do my students need to learn?

- What would be proof of their understanding?

- In what contexts will they develop understanding?

- What are my students interested in?

- What are real problems that people in my field—ecology, biology, local history—grapple with that are related to the content I need to teach?

- What is the problem that I want my kids to solve?

- What product will my students create?

Once you have figured it out, you can plan and proceed with your CTA. Now, the following points will help you in making a plan to integrate PBL with real issues.

1. Activity Must be Age Appropriate

It is important that educators pick issues and activities that are age appropriate for students. Make sure that the issue you pick should be observant to the kids in their immediate environment. As kids grow, they can dive deep into problems out of their direct community and be as proactive as they wish but under your guidance they must be directed towards issues they are in direct familiarity. For example: students of early education may be given a task to roam school fields to investigate spiders. To discover the truth about spiders and help reduce people’s fear of them, each student created a scientific drawing of a spider and wrote a book exploring their characteristics, like eating mosquitos or bugs that harm people’s gardens. Asking elementary students to work on something related to waste management is another task or students from the secondary education to teach anyone can help in illiteracy removal.

2. The Product

Now, while students do their task, it is important for them and you to have something that showcases their efforts as well as output. It would be good if you can guide your students with what they can do to showcase and preserve their experience. It can be done either in a form of website, blog, a scrapbook or anything that highlights their experience. It sure is important to do so, but keep the focus on learning goal i.e. solving the problem and understanding the content. The product is surplus!

When planning, think about the variety of products that your students might come up with to solve the problem. Plan for flexibility.     

3. Start Small

Remember to start small. You don’t have to invest weeks into one unit and I understand that you can’t. But making it a part of daily routine is what you require to do. Figure out what works best and what doesn’t and plan each day. “Instead of giving your students directions for an in-class assignment, ask them what they should do. If your students are lining up and it’s noisy, tell them what’s not working and ask them how they can solve it. If you create a birthday chart every year, have your students create it. It’s about giving them some of that decision-making power, authority, and choice, and that is where we start to see the problem-based learning live”, inputs eduTopia.

4. Acknowledge Students’ Perception

Before you give it a head start make sure you are aware of the following aspects:

- What do your kids already know about the problem?

- What do they need to know in order to solve the problem?

- What ideas do your students have to solve the problem?  

The core value of the PBL is that you allow students to explore and make mistakes in order to learn and grow. So make sure that you are completely aware of their take on the project you are about to take on!

5. Fail & It’s OKAY!

Be it the students or you, failures will be there and that is okay. When you are directing your students towards a certain idea chances are they might come up with results but there can be times when they don’t. So it’s a part of the game. When such a thing happens, go back to step one and plan again and think how you can teach them the content in other way.  

It is obvious that we have to teach kids about the problems and real world issues but if we just teach them about these issues and not help them make things better it is just to make them feel helpless or in cases depressed. Working on PBL to tech content as well as introducing students to real world issues and putting them in a place to make change is the best combination to help them and make change for all.    

Relatable Read: How Making an Impact on the World Motivates Students

What opinion do you have on this? What can be the other way to introduce kids to real world issues while teaching them the important content?

Share with us in the comment section below. 

About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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