Wednesday Walk and Talk: Problem Based Learning

We had a great turnout for the first Wednesday Walk and Talk. A big thanks to all the dedicated teachers who were able to participate.

What We Walked About
About a mile. No great feat, but better than sitting still for sixty minutes.

What We Talked About
After watching Dan Meyer’s TED talk (check it out at we discussed how teachers might devise compelling problems that prompt deeper, more meaningful learning in our classrooms. The speaker focuses on math problems, but they idea reaches beyond the math classroom. Meyer suggests that if we start instruction with a problem that is relevant and tangible, we might motivate learners to develop both “patient problem solving” skills and the content knowledge essential to the courses we teach.

One example that arose from a walk and talk conversation regards infectious diseases. Students in the health sciences learn about an abundance of diseases, but if they were to be given a stripped-down case study and perhaps a few graphic images with the simple instruction to diagnose the disease, then their learning, whether through research or lecture will have added meaning. That is to say, instead of gathering facts about diseases for the purpose of passing a test–hardly a compelling motivator during instruction–students become motivated learners discovering diseases to determine which one solves the case. They become Dr. House.

This approach to learning requires teachers to understand the relevance of their curriculum in the real world. It asks them to give students time to think, to use their intuition to solve problems, even to figure out what problems they are solving and what information they require to reach a solution. But above all, it gives students an opportunity to develop as critical thinkers while they learn course content, and that’s a solution worth seeking.

Feel free to share your ideas using the comments link above. Thanks for reading. See you at the next walk and talk on Feb. 15.

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