Problem-based Learning, Learning Communities, Postformal Thinking, Metacognitive Reflection, History Teaching, Course Engagement


This article presents an instructional model for teaching a gateway history course that affects students by: 1) improving their ability to think at higher levels; 2) increasing engagement; and, 3) enhancing their perception of the relevancy of the course material in comparison to traditional lecture and discussion. The model includes problem-based learning, a metacognitive reflection inducing approach to discussion, and integration into a learning community (PBL LC). The researchers conducted an evaluation of the outcomes of PBL LC and compared them to the outcomes of the same course taught by model methods without the learning community (PBL History) and by traditional lecture and discussion (TLD). We used a neo-Piagetian framework for developing the metacognitive reflection approach that also identified our target for higher level thinking and adult complex problem solving ability, i.e. postformal thinking dynamics. Change in cognitive ability, engagement and perception of relevancy of the content were measured using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. The results indicated that students taught with PBL LC had the highest levels of postformal thinking change, engagement, and perception of content relevancy, with both PBL LC and PBL resulting in higher levels than TLD.

Charles Wynn is an Assistant Professor of History and History Education at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA.

Richard Mosholder is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies at Kennesaw State University.

Carolee Larsen is the Assessment Director for University College at Kennesaw State University.