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Problem-Based Learning (PBL) advocates the tenets of constructivist learning that leverage active construction of knowledge by students and integration of personal experiences in a meaningful construction of ideas. It provides them with an opportunity to explore knowledge on their own way under the adult supervision and make them autonomous in their learning as well as increases the chances of engaging in collaborative work. These all are different dimensions of constructivist learning. Problem-based learning approach provides students an ill-structured task to direct them to pull out logical issues, reasoning and suggest genuine alternatives for getting a solution of a problem or desired task. PBL defined by Barrows (1986 as cited in Lajoie, Gauthier and Lu, 2009) "Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach where real-life cases are presented and students are required to define the problem, create hypotheses, gather and analyze data, and evaluate or justify solutions collaboratively" (p. 198). Critical thinking is one of the measures of learners' skills cultivated by constructivist learning environment. It can be defined as building hypotheses, analyzing different content or related information and predict a solution along with evidence (Angelique and Lim, 2009). According to Song et al. (2006) described that problem-based learning environment is full of challenges and offering risk which induce learners to take wise decision for getting results. Moreover, this learning environment in which learners accept challenges, involve in cognitive task to construct innovative ideas and reach towards meaningful construction (as cited in Angelique and Lim, 2009). In this study I will analyze students' critical thinking on the basis of different forms of talks. There are three level of talk as defined by Mercer (1994, 2000 as cited in Schmitz and Winskel, 2008) in Table-1 below:
Level of talk
Forms of talk
Students are involved in mutual exchange of ideas but not come up with the final agreement.
Those who have more knowledge about certain concept they often dominant and others have get less chance of mediation in talk.
Disagreement among individuals is arriving at certain point.
Group discourse occurs but do not think critically on problems.
Reproduce the similar things by repeating or building on others views.
Group have chance to do a counter argument with valid and optimistic reasoning in such a respectful manner.
Combined group discourse has occurred, offer suggestion and constructivist criticisms are allowed.
Table - 2, below indicates the level of reflective thinking defined by Mezirow's (1997, as cited in Lim and Angelique, 2011).
Levels of reflective thinking
This is about regular routine of actions and low amount of utilization of thinking on previously attained actions. This level is considered as low level of reflection.
Reflection understands within situational limitation. In other words, learners act on the basis of certain knowledge within their experiences domain.
learners adopt deductive approach to arrive at answer by carefully thinking about facts
This type of reflection refers to intuitive judgment
Purpose of study:
The purpose of this study is to examine the analysis of discourse in problem-based learning environment at different levels of education (e.g. grade level 6-9). This proposed study will be empirical study that examines the results longitudinally based on using different tools for measurement. The data will be collected from different sources that are video tape, class observation, fieldnotes, and teachers' interviews. From the above reviewed articles, I found a lack of discourse analysis in constructivist-oriented problem-based learning environment. Moreover, this study will intend to know about level of understanding and level of critical thinking which correlate with different types of discourse. This propose study's hypothesis that PBL is a form of active learning environment which intends to involve students in search of knowledge-based educational discussion and enhance students critical thinking as long as they continously interact with the environment that influence their learning. PBL also develop logical reasoning by course of periods of years in education. Furthermore, this study also recognizes teachers' role as a facilitator and provide instant feedback on students' performance in PBL environment. Magoon (1977) argued that "educational psychology researchers must turn their attention to what the students and teacher do jointly to construct academic content and classroom culture for a course of study" (as cited in Allus,2010, p. 1). In order to understand kinds of talks in educational learning environment, I will used a theoretical framework of Mercer (1995, as cited in Allus, 2010) on various talks. However, I will also include Mezirow's (1997, as cited in Lim and Angelique, 2011) four level of reflective thinking as a predictor of critical thinking in learning process in PBL environment.
Present study examines two features of PBL environment: discourse and reflective thinking. However, there are different forms of discourse as independent variable that will be used to predict dependent variables of reflective thinking. I will use following categories to measure different talks proposed by Mercer (1995) include: disputation talk, cumulative talk, exploratory talk. Whereas dependent variable will have four levels of reflection as suggested by Mezirow's (1997) consists of: habitual action, understanding, reflection, and critical reflection. There are five underlying research questions underpinning social constructivist philosophy of active participation of group learning:
PBL environment is a mediator of exploratory discourse which enhances students' critical thinking influences highest level of reflection and critical reflection while they are studying in science classroom.
In PBL environment, cumulative discourse can enhances lower level of habitual action of reflection among participant.
Students who are naÃ¯ve for using PBL environment they might be involve in disputation talk.
Students, who have sufficient experience with PBL instructional approach, can think more critically than less experience students.
PBL environment will have significant impact on students' achievement then ordinary classroom environment.
There are many experimental studies but longitudinal study is different from other experimental studies because it is more focus on series of observation over the course of time to get the authentic results. So that my recommended study consists of 4 years; I employ different tools to gather substantial amount of data such as: videotapes of students' engagement, observation of real settings to find students group work; also their participation in construction of concrete knowledge, field notes, using students' reflective journal, worksheet, presentation and teachers' open-ended interview on PBL and regular classroom environment in science education. In this study participant will be students of upper elementary level grade 8, they are students of science class. To assess student level of reflective thinking I would provide them science related problems. Students are divided into 5 groups and each group have 4 members to work collaboratively for given problems by teacher. The role of teacher in this approach is to guide students to think logically. Teacher could probe questions in order to encourage student to think beyond their normal process of reasoning. In problem-oriented classroom students will involve in exchange of ideas, raising critical questions, provide suggestion, and placing arguments to find an authentic solution with mutual agreement. This is a comparative longitudinal study to find level of critical thinking having discourse in experimental group which is PBL constructivist approach and control group which is regular classroom with didactic method of instruction, where learners have low chance of group interaction, will be studied. In this study I will intend to find different levels of discourse suggested by Mercer (1995) correspond to reflective level of thinking. I have chosen reflective level of thinking proposed by Mezirow (1997). It is a kind of qualitative analysis to observe the real phenomena and then those data will triangulated from different sources in order to verify the validity.
Participants used in this study will be upper elementary students of grade level 6-9. This study can be conducted in Montreal secondary schools. The participants would be recruited by random selection at the same level of four science classes. This study is arranged in a way that examines two science classes in PBL constructivist environment and two classes observe in teacher-centered learning environment. Students expected age varied on class wise. They are from age 11 or older till 16 years old.
Expected Findings and Addressing Limitations of Previous Studies:
Mercer, Dawes, Wegerif, and Sams (2004), found from their study that primary level of elementary students were trained to discourse during classroom activity and reason out on designated problems in science lesson, found evidently better understanding of specific science concepts as comparison to untrained peers (as cited in Gillies and Khan, 2009). My proposed study would provide expected result on this assumption that problem-based learning is mediator of critical thinking which can be enhanced by constructivist talk on three levels among groups or in classroom.
As a review from different studies, I found some limitations in those studies which would be addressed largely in my proposed study.
To cite the study of Angelique, Lim (2011) described:
Author found that short period of time for evaluating critical thinking is seems unrealistic and can restrain pre-determined outcome because it is being enhance over a period of time. Therefore proposed study comprises on 4 years students observation in order to find the progression and consistency of highest level of critical thinking via discourse.
Similarly, this study also highlighted the limitation of various subjects tested from different disciplines which show uncertain results. I expect from the proposed study that same subject in series of observation will be provided more accurate results on higher level of reflective thinking throughout the years of study.
The same study highlighted that focused on participants who were in different discipline which is difficult to examine the results in different domain in critical thinking context. I will take participant from similar subject, who will be from science class, so it is easy for investigator to evaluate critical thinking through discourse analysis during the classroom event.
To cite the study of Stears (2009) mentioned
Author stated that "knowledge was not restricted to the science concepts" (p. 406). In other words science education can be integrated with individual personal experiences and own contextualization. At this place, my proposed study can be compensated this limitation through providing a space of discourse in PBL classroom, where students get chance to share and integrate their own experiences among group members.
According to the study of yang, Chang and Hsu (2008) underlined this limitation:
Authors stated that teachers' personal epistemology restrain them to execute the philosophy of constructivism in their practice thereby they mostly prefer conventional way of teacher-centered teaching in science classroom. My proposed comparative research will tried to provide such a reflection on their beliefs about constructivist approach through experimental method of study.