Professional Saturday: PrBL Adventures

Last Saturday was my final TFA-Arkansas Saturday professional development.  I was asked to share with other math teachers about how students problem solve in my class.  I was given SUPER short notice so I made  list of a few talking points and certainly didn’t feel qualified or well prepared for my 5 minute presentation.  I gave it my best and it was an opportunity for me to learn about where I’m getting better.  

I focused on how I ask questions to students, examine student work as a class using my document camera, and allow students to work on problems BEFORE I teach.  I’d share more than that with you, but I winged it.  I don’t think anyone really gained as much as possible with the short notice and my self doubt, but I did have an opportunity to reflect on these strategies in my room to make them better because I talked about it for an hour and made myself believe I was an expert.  Time to keep moving from good to great 🙂

I also attended a session on Problem Based Learning led by Cody Whitesell of the New Tech network (@Cody_Whitesell).  I’ve read a bit about PrBL and what it means in the classroom, but after participating in Cody’s brief demo – an Algebra 1 lesson on radicals – I have a much greater understanding about what PrBL looks like and what it means.  (The picture didn’t come out well – there are 2 plots of land measured in “Zots” and we are determining if Farmer Joe should buy the third).  We worked in groups of four in an introduction to the problem – brainstorming what we know and what we needed to know.  

Some highlights from our activity:

Everyone was working and I left wanting to KNOW more about the problem – I still feel a little unsatisfied with the problem left unfinished.  

“Get [students] lost and frustrated as a facilitator”

“I don’t care about the answer to the question – I care about why you made that decision and if you can back it up”

I see such potential for engagement and true understanding.  This has motivated me to implement some version of PrBL next year.  It is the next logical bump from the talk I gave earlier in the day about questions.

Questions I still have about PrBL:

1. How would this look on a one classroom scale?  Everything that was mentioned seemed to be a whole school approach – like creating procedures and independent work.  It seems like the all day consistency would help students.

2. What would my Principal (or instructional coach) say if she observed my class?  I think more students would be engaged in their work but it would harder to find the standards.  For example, in the lesson we worked on we never once talked about radicals – the standards we focused on.  

 

Here is Cody’s Presentation – it is an explanation of PrBL if you want to delve into the theory.  

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