Extending teacher education students' mental models of teaching and learning through Problem Based Learning (PBL)

Year: 2005

Author: Askell-Williams, Helen, Murray-Harvey, Rosalind, Lawson, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports student teachers’ reflections on changes in their mental models of teaching and learning following their experiences of a problem based learning (PBL) topic. Students develop robust mental models of teaching and learning during their school years. Mental models inform intentions and plans, which in turn inform actions. As such, teachers often teach as they were taught—possibly perpetuating practices that limit intellectual inquiry in classrooms. PBL was introduced to our Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) to challenge and extend students’ mental models about teaching and learning, with a view to influencing their prospective teaching actions. We created an analytical framework and identified key-word descriptors of change to guide categorisation of 105 students’ focussed written reflections on their PBL experiences.

Results provide evidence that students do report changed mental models in areas such as, 1) the value of case studies for engaging with subject content, motivating learning and connecting theory with practice, 2) self-reflection and peer collaboration for cognitive and professional growth, and 3) PBL processes of inquiry for developing self-regulated learning practices.

Key words: Problem based learning; changing mental models; self-reflection; teaching and learning; teacher education