Scaffolding and Achievement in PBL: Why PBL is not Minimally Guided
Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R., Chinn, C. (Rutgers University)
Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) appeared in Educational Psychologist in 2007 in response to a controversial article that suggested PBL could be equated with minimal guidance being provided to students. This response by Hmelo-Silver and her colleagues makes it clear that scaffolding and guidance are essential elements of effective PBL use.
As stated in their abstract:
Many innovative approaches to education such as problem-based learning (PBL) and inquiry learning (IL) situate learning in problem-solving or investigations of complex phenomena. Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) grouped these approaches together with unguided discov- ery learning. However, the problem with their line of argument is that IL and PBL approaches are highly scaffolded. In this article, we first demonstrate that Kirschner et al. have mistakenly conflated PBL and IL with discovery learning. We then present evidence demonstrating that PBL and IL are powerful and effective models of learning. Far from being contrary to many of the principles of guided learning that Kirschner et al. discussed, both PBL and IL employ scaffolding extensively thereby reducing the cognitive load and allowing students to learn in complex domains. Moreover, these approaches to learning address important goals of educa- tion that include content knowledge, epistemic practices, and soft skills such as collaboration and self-directed learning.
Articles like this help chart the course toward a more modern view of PBL that is carefully designed to support learning, that is, to a considerable extent more than in the past. The argument in this article may appear extremely academic, but this is one of the key questions that must be answered before the field can move on.
Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R., Chinn, C. (2007). Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/research/study/pbl_is_not_minimally_guided.