Here are some best practices to create tasks for your PBL scenario.
- First, take a step back and determine if PBL is appropriate for your student learning outcomes. It might not always be. For example, if you plan on covering material that is content-heavy, other methods may be more effective. Keep in mind that creating and maintaining a meaningful scenario takes a lot of dedication and effort.
- Be as explicit as possible about your expectations for your tasks. Communicate them both verbally and in writing, and refer to them throughout the scenario. Since PBL may be a very new experience for students, they will respond better with clear, concise instructions.
- Create an immersive experience for the students. Students will be more actively engaged if you have established a deeper sense of role playing. For example, in my lab class, when I step out of the role of instructor and into the role of manager in the scenario, I put on my lab coat and students address me as their manager. If they have a question, they call me at my office. I take the role playing seriously and so do they. Encourage students to come up with titles, company email, etc.
- If you have a fictional company, design a custom logo and letterhead for communication with students.
- Provide a hierarchy of tasks having varying levels of challenge. For example, if you begin with simpler tasks such as having students create a team name or mascot or company name, they will feel more empowered to continue onto more challenging tasks. Having multiple SLOs and tasks that students meet along the way will build their momentum and confidence.
- Don’t be afraid to GO NUTS as you begin your design. Brainstorm lots of ideas for tasks, even ones that may seem crazy. Analyze their feasibility at a later stage. For example, when we were at the initial stages of developing our scenario, the idea of combining the efforts of two very different science lab courses might have seemed impossible at first. But through lots of hard work and planning, we were able to successfully synchronize the students’ tasks. You’ll be surprised at how creative you can be and how you can find a way to do the “impossible.”