PBL in the Humanities?

What does problem-based learning look like in a humanities course? More specifically, what does a syllabus for a PBL humanities course look like? Is it a series of questions that the class will tackle over the course of the semester? Is it a list of texts? Is is a list of problems?

Maybe there aren’t yet textbooks that promote PBL in the humanities. I think that Cengage’s Major Problems series makes a valiant effort toward problem-based learning. In these chapters are several primary documents, with a pair of essays as the conclusion. The essays approach the topic differently, demonstrating alternative solutions to the major problem of the chapter.

But these are just textbooks, not ways of approaching a course. Yes, they provide some outline for a PBL course, but they do not direct the daily happenings of the classroom. Pedagogy remains the instructor’s prerogative, but a good textbook can help.

About j.d.grunert

Historian, Science and Technology Studier, Librarian, Academish
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2 Responses to PBL in the Humanities?

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been struggling with a similar issue. In a sense, most of what we do in the humanities is “problem-based”… it’s just that the problems aren’t practical and/or likely to be very interesting to the students! Say, in a literature course: “How does the critical approach that we choose to apply to a text say about our values?” Or, in an ethics course: “What should we do about global famine?” These are problems, and they may be put to the class on day one, and most of the course can be structured to solve them. In this sense, we mostly already do this. But students are less likely to see them as problems in the conventional sense of puzzles or practical challenges to solve; more like abstract exercises.

  2. filot says:

    I just posted excerpts from humanities teachers’ experiences implementing PBL at one US high school. Check them out: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/learninganew/?p=159

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