Applying Problem-based Learning in the Classroom

A Message from Stacey Johnson, President, East and Winter Park Campuses 

As Valencia faculty members work to improve the teaching and learning process with their students, a popular buzz word that often comes up is authenticity. One method for achieving an authentic practice is project-based learning (PBL), which is similar to problem-based learning. Simply, students apply the principles covered in class to address a problem or challenge that is related to the subject matter within their world.

On the Winter Park Campus, Professor of Business Marva Pryor is no stranger to immersing her students in project-based learning. From fall 2016 through spring 2017, she challenged her Business Management and Introduction to Business students to step into the real world of business and research onboarding practices through PBL. To do this, the students revised the employee handbook for the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. Marva said the goal was “to connect the campus to the community.”

Marva, noting that this work began through connections made by former Executive Dean Michele McArdle and Winter Park Chamber of Commerce leadership, said, “In order to get the students prepared for this undertaking, they researched current business trends, laws and local business issues. Once they had gathered this information, they were ready to divide and conquer.”

The student groups then identified the sections to revise, assigned themselves tasks within their groups, met online in video conferences via Google Hangouts to review updates and shared their revisions. The final project involved the students presenting their proposals to Chamber leaders in a corporate board meeting setting.

“It was in this mock presentation that some of the students would realize how under-prepared they actually were, and it was a catalyst to prompt the students to be better prepared,” Marva shared.

She offers advice to other faculty members who may be interested in implementing project-based learning in their classes: “Be prepared to let the students succeed and fail,” Marva concluded. “Faculty will learn with the students.”

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