Developing Historical Thinking in Large Lecture Classrooms Through PBL Inquiry Supported with Synergistic Scaffolding

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Haesol Bae
Kalani Craig
Fangli Xia
Yuxin Chen
Cindy E. Hmelo-Silver


 As PBL has gained popularity across disciplines, its move from small medical-school inquiry groups into large-class undergraduate inquiry has led to an increasing need to understand the elements of successful PBL implementations in large classrooms. In this study, we investigated how PBL was appropriated among students to develop historical thinking skills in a 96-person introductory undergraduate history survey course. The video analysis demonstrated that it was initially challenging for students to appropriate the routines and norms of PBL, but instructor interaction with both the students and representational tools in a large classroom provided multiple co-occurring and dynamic supports. This synergistic scaffolding structured around representational tools was instrumental in a semester-long intervention in which we supported student learning of historical thinking skills by encouraging appropriation of the activities that govern PBL.

Keywords: PBL in large classrooms, history PBL, developing historical thinking skills, synergistic scaffolding, representation tools

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