Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design of a Dual-Mapping Learning Approach for Problem Solving and Knowledge Construction in Ill-Structured Domains

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design of a Dual-Mapping Learning Approach for Problem Solving and Knowledge Construction in Ill-Structured Domains

Article excerpt

Introduction

A critical element of fostering learning is to have learners to carry out tasks or solve problems in an environment that reflects the use of knowledge into practice (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). It is assumed that learning can be better acquired through problem-solving experience. However, many learners do not have the ability to separate general knowledge from specific cases as they focus on surface features of problems rather than on the development of an understanding of the problem domain (Kirschner et al., 2006). This problem inhibits the likelihood of successful transfer of knowledge to new situations. While problem-based learning (PBL) is increasingly used in medical education and other ill-structured domains, there is a concern about its impact on learners' knowledge base (Albanese & Mitchell, 1993; Gijbels et al., 2005; Hartling et al., 2010).

It is crucial to reveal what is entailed in PBL experience and examine how knowledge construction can be better supported in PBL. However, both problem solving and knowledge construction are complex cognitive processes that cannot be easily captured and mastered. Knowledge gained from practice is found difficult to retain and reuse as a result of contextualization and dynamic aspects of actual problem-solving practice (Patel et al., 2009a). Although situated learning and cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown & Holum, 1991) theories offered guidelines and strategies to facilitate learning in problem contexts, how practice and knowledge reciprocate each other has been overlooked in existing studies.

This study aims to address the challenge by proposing a dual-mapping learning (DML) approach for externalizing and integrating complex problem-solving and knowledge-construction processes. Medical education was selected as the domain for this study, as problem-solving experience is regarded as crucial to learning and expertise development in this field. Moreover, computer-based technology is increasingly used in various aspects of medical education (Kushiniruk, 2011). The DML approach focused on a computer-based dual-mapping cognitive tool and implementation of the tool into an online environment for PBL.

The objective of the study was to design, implement, and evaluate the DML approach. A design-based research paradigm was therefore adopted for the study. Design-based research is a systematic methodology that creates, builds, and evaluates innovative artifacts or interventions to deal with identified problems in educational practices (Reeves, 2006). Although PBL has advantages of promoting active and reflective learning, there are concerns about its weakness in general study design, and careful research is needed to understand whether and how potentials of PBL might be realized (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Design-based research is particularly important in such kind of situations that complex and ambitious educational reforms are ill-specified and the implementation process is uncertain (Wang, Vogel & Ran, 2011). Design-based research contains two key components: design and evaluation of the proposed artifact or intervention. Accordingly, the research questions of the study include: (1) how can the DML approach be designed to externalize and integrate problem-solving and knowledge-construction processes? and (2) how effectiveness is the DML approach in PBL?

Design-based research usually involves four steps: problem analysis, solution development, solution testing and refinement, and reflection on design principles (Reeves, 2006). In this study, the requirement of constructing systemic knowledge in PBL is analyzed in the introduction and related work sections; a theory-driven design of the DML approach is discussed in the theoretical framework, conceptual design, and implementation sections; testing of the DML approach is reported in the evaluation section; and findings of the study in terms of answers to the two research questions are summarized in the discussion section, followed by conclusions at the end. …

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