With schools closed across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and people confined to their homes, suddenly parents are confronted with the dismaying prospect of keeping their children occupied, day in and day out. Right now, parents have the gift of time, so they can use Problem Based Learning (PBL) as an approach to keep the children engaged productively. For parents of children who always say, “Why?” and “How?” and “Show me more,” a Problem-Based Learning approach can give their natural curiosity wings.
Much of the distance learning that is taking place with schools is confined to lectures and worksheets. Many parents are playing meaningful and fun games with their children at home, however, there is a great need to find ways to create deeper learning opportunities and to develop real world skills. Problem Based Learning provides a great opportunity for parents and educators to create such opportunities.
WHY PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING?
- It helps children take learning in their own hands as they are doing their own exploring and taking learning and finding solutions. PBL leads to deeper and long term retention and application of knowledge.
- It creates curiosity, creativity, and personal initiative.
- It allows children to learn independently through exploration and experimentation.
- It can build independence which can support a child’s sense of confidence and self-esteem.
- It builds valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- It is entirely student-centric and student-driven. Parents and teachers are just facilitators who gently guide the learners.
So, how can parents extend PBL beyond the classroom and utilize this approach at home?
STEP-BY-STEP WAY TO PBL
Identify a problem/need: This lockdown is a blessing in disguise because parents are getting to know their children inside out especially what’s bothering them these days. This can be used to dig into their real-life problems. The aim is to find out the real-world problem that has a direct impact on them. It can be anything from them getting bored at home or taking interest in cooking or what they think about ways to combat the pandemic.
Generate Questions: Encourage children to put on their thinking caps and come up with as many questions as possible around their real-world problem or challenge. We can help them to process information by asking them about what they notice, or see, or wonder about, or what they think might happen next.
Thinking Deeper: Now that they have identified a problem and subsequent questions (depending upon the age of the child), we can continue to ask those follow up deeper questions. We can encourage them to come out with a draft project plan, which can take multiple forms such as a craft project, a painting or a new recipe they want to try.
Collaboration: Once they have generated possible questions around their problems, then they start to find answers to those questions, with the help of their parents, friends, and family. The essence of collaboration is: “Team Work”. Collaboration helps learners cultivate, justify, argue, and recognize multiple perspectives on their problem to create the most appropriate and viable products. And the ‘AHHA’ moment is when you find possible solutions.
Reflection: This is the time where parents can have an informal conversation with their children about what they learn today and how they find the project. What is easy? Was it challenging? What was the fun part? Where did they get stuck on and what should happen next. Every PBL should end with a question or questions for possible further investigation.
Communication and Sharing: Our children are the happiest when they create something of their own and are being appreciated for the same. It’s a great idea to find opportunities for your child to share what they’ve just learned and accomplished with friends and family members.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Discontinue or pause for some time if the child is losing interest.
- The goal is to encourage thinking abilities and not develop any advanced skills or specific content.
- Listen to your children carefully, respect their questions, be patient, don’t solve the problem for them
- Encourage the child to start a topic of their own. MINI PBL ACTIVITIES AT HOME
- “Mamma, I am bored” is the topmost concern of all parents. This can be used as a “need” to encourage kids to make their own daily routine. Next time they say they are bored, ask them to have a look at their schedule, and do things accordingly.
- Thanks to lockdown, the pollution level has lowered. We can now encourage our learners to find a solution to how to keep pollution levels down when lockdown lifts.
- The COVID-19 can also be a good topic to encourage kids to talk about health, where the ‘problem’ is the virus, and a solution can be strong immunity. They can prepare their list of dos and don’ts around health, cleanliness at home and surroundings, safety and immunity, and follow them.
- We are also rationing groceries due to limited stock in the market and minimal trips to shops. Children can also be probed to create their meal plans or even a new recipe with the given resources because the ‘problem’ is that we can’t step out to buy groceries. This is another PBL activity that will help them understand the concept of minimalism.
The goal is for children to become engaged in their own learning while parents serve as guides rather than instructors. There is no right or wrong answer in Problem-Based learning, it only encourages children to take risks and embrace learning through creative thought.