It is quickly apparent from the day's activities that there is a lot of work to create a PBL. Although it is a lot of work, it is definately worth it. It is also easier if you do it in a team. It appears from the facilitators that it will get easier but the work transfer is definitely different in a constructivist environment. When you teach the traditional way, a lot of your work is inside the classroom. You do spend some time outside of the classroom preparing but not a great deal. It almost seems most of your time is spent grading. After you have taught for a while, a lesson only takes 30 minutes to prepare and sometimes you repeat what you have done.
However, as a result of today, I know that when a classroom is changed to a PBL environment the bulk of the work is without the students. It is a methodical process where you think about what your students will be able to do, choose what standards they need to achieve, think about potiential situations in the area that fit and start to map the process out. I found mapping and development of the actual problem statement/question process to be the most difficult. The mapping process includes thinking about all the directions that can result from your problem. This can take a lot time and would be most helpful when you get with other people.
For example, I had a hard time even thinking of a potential issue concerning some of the big ideas in Algebra 2. One of the big ideas in Algebra 2 is understanding the characteristics of parabolas, hyperbolas, ellispes, etc. I could not think of any potential situation that includes those items that would be open ended enough. I approached the facilitator with the math background for help. She never taught as high as Algebra 2 so she took me to another room that contained facilitators preparing for the next week summer sleuth program. It was an absolutely wonderful. I received three ideas in less than 10 minutes. THE POWER OF COLLABORATION! One of the ideas was about cartoon animation such as recent films by Pixar. The animators start with basic shapes to build the 3-D image. This aspect connects geometry and algebra perfectly. Another idea is to create a sculpture or design that involves the shapes. Another idea was to have my students teach younger students about the shapes. Another idea was designing roller coaster or other objects that encompass that shape. Without even trying I got ideas for both geometry and Algebra 2. YES!
The other difficult portion of PBL is creating the problem statement. I didn't get far with this part of the planning. However, my past experience reminds me how critical this portion is to the process but also can be difficult to plan. Designing a statement that does not require a yes or no answer can be difficult. I have found that doing this with other people helps to make it easier. I left the yesterday excited about planning a problem with my co-workers. I can't wait until tomorrow!