EWHA's Research Power for Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences
February, 2020
EWHA's Research Power for Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences


Promoting learning in online ill-structured problem solving: The effects of scaffolding type and metacognition level


By Prof. Kyuyon Lim (klim@ewha.ac.kr)
Department of Educational Technology

Professor Kyu Yon Lim's recent publication, "Promoting learning in online, ill-structured problem solving" in Computers and Education, is a quasi-experimental study examining ways to facilitate problem-solving performance by providing online scaffoldings.

One of the core competencies required in a future society includes the ability to collaborate and solve complex problems. Prior research emphasizes project-based learning incorporating problem-solving activities as a key method to develop students’ core competencies. Meanwhile, more recently, online technologies enable learners to actively participate in learning and communicate during the process of problem-solving. Given the characteristics of problem-solving activities conducted in an online learning environment, learners must have not only background domain and structural knowledge to understand and solve the problem, but also metacognitive knowledge for planning and knowing which domain knowledge to use and how to apply it. Learners who lack either domain-specific or metacognitive knowledge have difficulties in defining and solving problems as well as in collecting, verifying, and presenting evidence to support their claims. Besides, learners may lose their direction when a large volume of content and related activities are presented all at once in these ill-structured online contexts.

This study adopted scaffolding strategies to minimize these difficulties. Scaffolding entails providing expert assistance to learners to achieve what they have trouble achieving on their own. With the introduction of web-based learning, the meaning of scaffolding has expanded to cover instruments, strategies, guides, and sources to help learners. In this study, scaffolding was employed as an intervention in order to provide learners with informative guidance and help in advance. More specifically, this study identifies the effects of scaffolding types as strategies for facilitating presence, which refers to the feeling that learners are engaged in the learning process, problem-solving performance, and achievement. It also explored the comparative advantages of different scaffolding types and their relevance to learners’ metacognition. Metacognition is important in the strategic aspects of problem-solving, as it requires the ability to identify and select appropriate problem-solving strategies and to reflect on and evaluate the consequences of learning. Put simply, the purpose of this study is to examine how scaffolding types and metacognition levels affect presence, problem-solving performance, and achievement in online ill-structured problem-solving. The study considers supportive and reflective scaffolding to be critical influences on the outcome variables.

For this quasi-experimental study, the college students participated in web-based learning for three weeks without any face-to-face classes or meetings to solve a given ill-structured problem. They were divided by either low or high metacognition level before the experiment, and then provided with either supportive or reflective scaffolding that was useful for solving the problem. The analysis results of two-way MANOVA and ANCOVA were as follows:

First, reflective scaffolding was more effective than supportive scaffolding in facilitating cognitive presence and social presence in online ill-structured problem-solving. However, supportive scaffolding was more effective in facilitating teaching presence. Given the interaction effects between scaffolding types and metacognition levels on presence, learners with low metacognition should receive supportive scaffolding to increase teaching presence, whereas learners with high metacognition should receive reflective scaffolding. Second, reflective scaffolding was more effective than supportive scaffolding in terms of problem representation and monitoring and evaluation, indicating that each scaffolding type has a comparative advantage at each problem-solving stage. The results showed no interaction effect between scaffolding type and metacognition level on problem-solving performance, although this finding could be related to how the evaluation was measured in this study. Third, achievement differed by scaffolding type; it was higher in the reflective scaffolding group, and it showed an interaction effect between scaffolding type and metacognition level. Reflective scaffolding was more effective regardless of metacognition level, and the difference in achievement by scaffolding type was greater among participants with high metacognition than among participants with low metacognition.

As further studies, the researcher now focuses on adaptive scaffolding that varies by learners’ responses as well as the construct of metacognition relevant to co-regulation in collaborative learning.


* Related Article
Jooyeon Kim, Kyuyon Lim, Promoting learning in online, ill-structured problem solving: The effects of scaffolding type and metacognition level, Computers & Education, 138, September 2019, 116-129.

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