My favorite idea about PBL is the role of the teacher. Unlike years past in education when the teacher had the key to all of the knowledge the students would need, PBL changes the teacher’s job from being the gatekeeper to being the students’ guide for their educational journey. My principal teases me about how often I use the phrase “community of learners” to describe my classes, but I truly believe the teacher and the students should together function as one community of growth and knowledge.
One spring break I had the pleasure of taking a group of students to London and Paris. Before we left the United States, we sat together and decided what we wanted to see. As a result, I saw ancient statues at the British Museum and the Louvre, went to Platform 9 3/4 to try to get to Hogwarts, visited Versailles, went to an artist’s market at the top of Paris, and saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, all experiences my students wanted to have. In the meantime, I figured out how to buy ibuprofen in Paris, where they do not sell medications at their grocery stores, and made sure all of the students made it on to the train twice a day, once making a rather graceful leap onto a moving train in Paris after my last student stepped on (the most athletic moment in my life, actually). This student trip shows the role of the teacher in PBL. The students create the framework of learning, but the teacher provides assistance with the unexpected and helping the students get where they want to go.