Proposal of Empirical Study Problem Based Learning


Problem-based learning (PBL) advocates the tenets of constructivist learning that leverage the active construction of knowledge by students and integration of personal experiences in a meaningful construction of ideas. It provides students 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 provided students an ill-structured task to direct them to pull out logical issues, reasoning and suggest genuine alternatives for a problem. 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 measure skill cultivate by constructivist learning environment. It can be define as building hypotheses, analyzing different content and predict the solution along with evidence (Angelique and Lim, 2009). According to Song et al. (2006) described that problem-based learning environment is full of challenge 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 examine students' critical thinking on the basis of different forms of talk. There are three level of talk has defined by Mercer (1994, 2000as cited in Schmitz and Winskel, 2008) in table 1 below:

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Table 1

Level of talk

Forms of talk



Disputation talk

Students are involved in mutual exchange of ideas but not come up to the final agreement.

Those who have more knowledge about certain concept they often dominant and other have get low chance of talk.

Disagreement among individuals in arriving at certain point.


Cumulative talk

Group discourse occurred 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 reason in such a respectful manner.

Combine group discourse has occurred, offer suggestion and constructivist criticisms are allowed.

Table - 2, below shows the level of reflective thinking which is defined by Mezirow's (1997, as cited in Lim and Angelique, 2011).

Non -reflection


Levels of reflective thinking


Habitual action

It is about regular routine of actions and low amount of utilization of thinking on previous the attainment of actions. This level is considered as low level of reflection.


Reflection understands within situational limitation. In other words, learners act certain knowledge within their experiences domain.


learners adopt deductive approach to arrive at answer by carefully think on facts

Critical reflection

Reflection refers to intuitive judgment

Purpose of the study:

The purpose of this study is to find discourse analysis in problem-based learning environment in different degree of level. This proposed study will be empirical study which would be examine the results on longitudinal based by using different tools for measurement will video tape and class observation, fieldnotes, and teachers' interviews. I found lack of discourse analysis in constructivist-oriented problem-based learning environment from above reviewed articles. Moreover, this study will intend to know about level of understanding and level of critical thinking which correlate with different types of discourse. We hypothesis that PBL is a form of active learning environment which intended to involve students in search of knowledge-based educational discussion and enhance students critical thinking as long as they get interact with the environment. PBL also develop logical reasoning by course of periods of years in education. Furthermore, this study also get aware teachers' role as a facilitator and acknowledger 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 the kinds of talk 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) five level of reflective thinking as a predictor of critical thinking.

Research Questions:

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Present study will examine on two categories: discourse and reflective thinking. However, there are different forms of discourse as independent variables will be used to predict dependent variables of reflective thinking. I will use following categories to measure different talk proposed by Mercer (1995) include: disputation talk, cumulative talk, exploratory talk. Whereas dependent variables will four level of reflection 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 at the highest level of reflective and critical reflective 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 naïve for using PBL environment they might be involve in disputation talk.

Students who have sufficient experience with PBL instructional approach, they have more critical thinking than less experience.

PBL environment will have significance difference on students' achievement then regular classroom environment.