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DO CONCEPT-MAPS SERVE AS AN APPROPRIATE SCAFFOLD FOR PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS?

S. Wichtel1, A. O'Donnell2

1Rutgers University (UNITED STATES)
2Rutgers The State University of New Jersey (UNITED STATES)
Collaborative learning designs, such as problem-based learning (PBL), have the potential to help students build valuable team-based professional skills needed for life after schooling within higher-educational settings (Desimone, 2009; Savery, 2006); however, motivating students to work together to successfully achieve outcomes often proves challenging. Research has shown that high-quality socially shared regulation (SSR) can improve these outcomes, but research is limited in determining the best instructional practices, and scaffolds, for fostering interdependence and sustained collaboration. The purpose of this study was to use Belland, Kim, and Hannafin’s (2013) framework for designing scaffolds, that aims to improve on motivation and cognition, to extend previous research conducted by Manente (2014) and Rogat & Linnenbrink-Garcia (2011; 2013), and determine whether incorporating concept maps into PBL tasks would improve student performance and increase the frequency and quality of SSR. This mixed methods study took place within an educational psychology course at a large university. Participants were 16 undergraduate sophomore and graduate students who were divided into 4 groups, trained in the use of concept maps, and then engaged in three PBL conditions during the semester—PBL-Independent, PBL-Positive Interdependence, and PBL-High Positive Interdependence. Quantitative analyses of student scores on problem solutions and comprehension assessment scores showed students had the highest scores in the PBL-High Positive Interdependence condition. This study showed that the addition of concept maps contributed to the improvement of student scores on comprehension assessments, by comparing students’ performance with students’ performance on comprehension assessments from Manente’s (2014) study. Qualitative analysis of group interactions showed that groups exhibited high quality SSR during the PBL-High Positive Interdependence condition, and processes of task planning, content planning and content monitoring were the most frequently used across groups. Overall, findings supported the use of concept maps as a tool to increase the effectiveness of PBL and students SSR and effective group skills. Areas of future exploration were also identified, including but not limited to, examining the degree to which concept maps impact cognitive load, and determining ways to effectively and gradually fade out hard scaffolds in order to promote independence.