#CCK11 Problem based learning and Socratic Dialogue

Thanks to Irmeli in referring to this Socratic Dialogue

Kristof elaborates:

What is the role of the facilitator?

I personally hold to three rules in Socratic dialogue :

1. Say what you want to say, also about the conversation as such, at any moment you think

it is suitable

2. Be concrete

3.Try to establish a common enterprise

The interventions of the facilitator can be legitimised according to these three rules.

While the possibility and necessity of dialogue is increasingly called upon today, actually engaging in dialogue with one another is very difficult and often unpleasant.

What are the difficulties?

Why are dialogues unpleasant?

He explains that Dialogue differs from a discussion in that it is:

– dialectic (means knowing through)

– aimed at insight in the value of judgements

– suspending judgements

– investigating and checking

– wanting to know the truth

– investigation

– listening to yourself and others

– attitude of taking the others point of view

– questioning

– slowness

– community orientated

Photo: From Flickr

I came across this paper on problem based learning (PBL), Wood says:

“The role of the tutor is to facilitate the proceedings (helping the chair to maintain group dynamics and moving the group through the task) and to ensure that the group achieves appropriate learning objectives in line with those set by the curriculum design team.”  “The tutor should encourage students to check their understanding of the material. He or she can do this by encouraging the students to ask open questions and ask each other to explain topics in their own words or by the use of drawings and diagrams.” Problem based learning could be very effective in the training of medical students, as that would expose them to “real life problems” with the use of case scenarios.  It requires a “group” approach to tackle the problems.

Wood concludes that PBL also generates a more stimulating and challenging educational environment, and the beneficial effects from the generic attributes acquired through PBL should not be underestimated

I found this paper on Using the Case Method to Teach Online Classes: Promoting Socratic Dialogue and Critical Thinking particularly helpful.  I then reflected on the learning from these critical points:

– Tone is conveyed through word choice in the virtual classroom

– Sarcasm in particular comes across poorly in Internet communication

– Teaching students how to create substantial discussion responses to the cases is the critical task of the instructor.

In summary, the case approach promotes social change in that students reflectively and critically examine their own thoughts in relation to the course material and other students’ response.

Problem-based learning, as mentioned by Brooke is not novel, and has been used for decades.  The use of conversation, debates, and Socratic dialogue is also common in classroom environment, together with case studies, especially in more advanced courses in higher education or vocational education.  So the challenge is: how could these be adequately applied in virtual classroom?

The questions remain:

(1) How effectively will problem based learning be when used in virtual classroom in courses such as OOC or an MOOC?

(2) Do participants need to be directed or guided by the instructors in those problem based learning? Could participants be guided by knowledgeable others? How? Why?

(3) How to motivate students, learners, or participants to form into groups in tackling problem-based learning, especially in an online networked environment?

(4) How to improve learning online using problem based learning?

In the case of MOOC, like PLENK and CCK08, 09, 11, I think there were many problems brought out by the participants.  But then, most cases were discussed based on diversified perspectives of participants and so it was hard to come up with any conclusions, or even summary of “verdicts” or learning.

In future MOOC, could we make use of some of the past case scenarios, or those issues and problems people encountered in their online or virtual classes as learning cases?  I reckon this would be an interesting and challenging activity for both experienced and novice educators and learners to share their experience and views together.  Would there be volunteers who would develop those cases or problems?  How and what would help in achieving this?

How about a blog, aggregated blog, a gRSShopper, a wiki or Google document for such problems or cases development, discussion, and debate?

In the paper, Brooke concludes:

Using the case method to teach online classes promotes a learning-centered cultural milieu (Brooke, 2004; Brooke 2005). By learning-centered, I am
referring to students developing responsibility for their own learning. The instructor is the facilitator and further refines critical thinking skills and analysis.

What could you conclude?  Is problem based learning useful and effective in learning online? How about your experience?