This is a 5-6 minute read.
“PBL must be designed around a process of excellence, using drafts, prototypes, peer protocols, thinking and brainstorming exercises, and clear performance standards.” (Markham 2012, p.xii)
This blog is still in its early stages, about a week old, and it is taking its character and shape along the way. Inevitably things will change – layouts, my writing styles, organisation of posts and pages, revising and editing pages, correcting typos…etc.
I have been working on the “What is PBL?” pages as a starting point and thought I had those pages nailed down. Yesterday I realised that actually they could be reorganised. This involved some rewriting, reorganising of text and three pages becoming four. And this started me thinking about how I value the work I do – and naturally how this relates to PBL.
I could have left the pages as they were – they were fine – but I knew they could be better. They would be easier to read and expressed my thoughts more clearly and concisely. I knew that it would take an hour or so – time I could spend writing the other things I want to add to the blog but I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I addressed these issues.
This is a common occurrence. Many is the time I have completed work on an activity, resource or worksheet for my learners only to realise that, although it is fine as it is, it is not the best piece of work I could do at the time. It may only be a case of the layout or formatting of a document (not the content) yet I feel it is worth the extra time it takes. Naturally this also applied to my MA work and presentations I have given. It also happens with non-teaching administration too.
So why is this? When did I start to value the quality of my work? When did it stop being sufficient for my work to be good enough?
Looking back I don’t think I was that great a student. I think my higher education studies were good enough but not the best they could be – I was happy with that at the time. I had the same attitude we complain about our learners having to their studies.
The difference is I am doing a job I love doing. I love working with the learners and colleagues. I enjoy the challenge of finding the most effective way to teach English to my learners. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of my own professional development – this blog included. I could go on…
Sometime in the last 20 years of teaching – probably when I realised this was something I was good at, I enjoyed and could make a career out of.
The short answer would be intrinsic motivation – but where does that come from. Well from what I have said about my job – I obviously value what I do and place a great importance on the quality of the work I do. I have audiences:
- my learners – I wish to give the best experience I can.
- my colleagues – again I feel it is important to respect them with a high standard of work.
- myself – well, this blog may not read by anyone else but I still want to produce something I feel good about. Also I completed my MA two years ago with a Distinction. It was a distance course and I completed it in two rather than three years. I started the course just after relocating to Turkey and had started working in a new environment. I’m not trying to blow my own horn here but once again it would have been easy* to settle for passes in my modules rather than trying my absolute best – I would still have passed the MA.
In that last sentence I mentioned that it would be easy to settle – except it wouldn’t. I would have found it very hard. In these situations, which matter to me, l feel good when I produce work I consider of high quality. Of course what I consider high quality may not be up to other people’s standards!
I have talked here about what happens outside the classroom (and in a professional context) – these comments could also apply to what happens in the classroom. They also apply to other parts of my life. That said there are parts of my life where good enough is OK. My office mates would probably think the organisation of my desk is not good enough but it’s good enough for me – it will only get messy again.
And what about PBL?
Well the point, of what was going to be a short post, is that it seems PBL is an opportunity to encourage learners to think about producing high quality work they can take pride in and that good enough is not actually good enough or satisfying. Of course there are many facets of PBL that can encourage this outlook and this is why, it seems, PBL should not be implemented half-heartedly.
Essential factors include need for an expectation of quality as well as help in guiding the learners to the creation of a quality outcome. It is also clear that the outcome should be one that is valued by the learners – learner choice and voices are important here. The outcome should also have a clear audience who will recognise and value the outcome.
Markham, T 2012, Project Based Learning. Design and Coaching Guide, viewed 1st May 2014, http://www.thommarkham.com/index.php/philosophy/buy-pbl-deign-and-coaching-guide