University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Page: 4267 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
The intersection of two dynamics in our institution led to an important change in the curriculum design of our second year writing course. We adopted a Problem- based Learning (PBL) curriculum to support students’ use of critical thinking in their writing while supporting them to become more independent writers. This change was in response firstly to our college initiating a faculty learning community focused on promoting and assessing critical thinking in students across the college. Secondly, the introduction of an intermediate level writing course with the goal of helping students to develop skills to write across the curriculum inspired the use of PBL. Research shows that critical thinking is a prerequisite for seeking solutions to ill-structured problems with multiple answers as options. Such undefined problems are exactly what writers encounter when they begin their writing projects in a PBL environment. Each writer must determine how best to evaluate the readers’ needs and determine an effective means of communicating her ideas to those readers.

PBL has been shown to improve students’ critical thinking in a variety of disciplines. As writing instructors, we wanted to examine if PBL would improve students’ writing in an intermediate writing course. We developed a course curriculum that began with establishing the fundamental course concepts through guided instruction, group work, readings, and in and outside class activities. Once students understood these concepts as evidenced in a traditional paper assignment, we moved them into a PBL curriculum. Students were introduced to the PBL approach and the remaining writing assignments required students to work in groups to find solutions to ill-structured problems. To determine if PBL improves student writing, we used a common rubric to assess a traditional paper assignment and the written product for the second problem. The common rubric assessed student writing on six categories: Audience, Purpose, Content, Structure, Rationale, and Unity and Coherence. A paired t-test and the Wilcox signed-rank test were used to analyze students’ writing based on the common rubric. Analysis of data shows that after PBL work there is a statistically significant increase across all categories except rationale. Based on these results, we believe PBL pedagogy does improve students’ critical thinking and writing.
Problem Based Learning, critical thinking, university writing.