PBLA is definitely a challenge in terms of keeping things organized. This is especially true if you are like me and are not naturally an organized person. I’ve been forced to become organized over the years, but it can be a struggle at times. When you start adding new learners into the class throughout the term, it can sometimes get overwhelming. However, I try to break it down in terms of what the learner really needs to do, and then slowly ease them into the PBLA process. Here is what has worked for me:
Language Companion and Portfolio: Ideally I would like to give them this on their first day, but I find it is better to wait a week or so just to ensure that they are committed to the class. Just last week I had a learner join the class on Monday, and I haven’t seen him since.
Autobiography: I try to get them to complete this during the first learning reflection time. I usually do learning reflections on Monday mornings, which is when new learners are added to the class. Since they have nothing to reflect on, this is the perfect time to get them to write a short autobiography.
Goal Setting: I try to get the learners to review their goals every 4-6 weeks. If I have new learners, then I simply use this time to get them to write out their goals. Because the other learners are reviewing their goals, the new learners get a chance to see the types of goals that they can be setting. It also gives me a chance to review the goal setting process.
Needs Assessment: I usually try to get to indicate their needs in their autobiography, so I am able to get a sense of their needs. This gives me a start. I also do informal needs assessments every 3-4 weeks, so that ensures that they do get a voice in the class.
Getting Learners caught up: What I really like about the PBLA approach is the modules. Because I usually contain my modules to a week, and sometimes 2 weeks, the new learners usually ente rthe class when I am starting a new module. This is perfect because it means all the learners are starting on the same page. I am teaching new stratrgies, new content, and doing new language tasks. It also means that I will have a chance to collect baseline information on their language skills very quickly. This is really helpful becaus eit immediately lets me know where they fit into the class and how I need to group them. The rare time that they come into the class in the middle of the module just means that I have to do more scaffolding for that week and then assure thm that they will be on the same page the next week.
Overall, the biggest key is not to try and rush the process. We don’t need to get everything done right away. Spread out the information that you need to collect over several weeks, and get into a rhythm of when you can smoothly introduce key portfolio info. There is a lot to keep track of, and a lot to do, but small steps ensure that we don’t step over a cliff 🙂