Internet-enhanced Seven-Jump Problem-based Learning: Promoting Creativity, Economic Literacy, and Argumentation Skills

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Internet-enhanced Seven-Jump Problem-based Learning: Promoting Creativity, Economic Literacy, and Argumentation Skills

Jonggyu Bae
Seoul Sinseo High School, Korea


This chapter discusses the potential of an Internet-enhanced problem-based learning model to promote creativity, economic literacy, and argumentation skills in solving controversial issues in social studies. More specifically, it compares this model with the decision-making model in producing these effects. While the decision-making model mainly seeks problem solution in a linear process based on objective data, the developed problem-based learning model challenges students to explore issues from multiple perspectives and to generate creative solutions. It is argued here that the promotion of the four dimensions of creativity underlies the potential of the developed model to enhance economic literacy and argumentation skills.


Korea's current national social studies curriculum advocates the use of issue-centered learning and teaching approaches. But in middle and high schools, the lack of appropriate instructional methods hinders the implementation of this curriculum. This situation needs to be urgently looked into and rectified.

An issue-centered approach to social studies aims at steering students toward a process of thinking and learning in which they seek knowledge based on what they need to know for solving decision-making problems. In addition, it requires that students make conclusions based on the best evidence available. These capabilities can be developed if teachers are committed to nurturing students' skills in higher-order thinking and knowledge construction.

By contrast, the prevailing decision-making model (Banks & Banks, 1999) regards problems as closed tasks, and the goal of the solution process is to be able to arrive at a consensus. This model does not adequately develop the thought processes by which knowledge is created, evaluated, and used because of its objectivist paradigm that emphasizes a linear decision-making process. As such, we seek solutions that would foster the various cognitive patterns and experiences occurring in experts as they solve controversial issues. Toward that end, I adopt an Internet-enhanced model adapted from the seven-jump problem-based learning (PBL) framework (Schmidt, 1983; Schmidt & Moust, 2000).

The Decision-making Model

Ill-defined problems are generative and they make the problem solver ask questions. In fact, so many questions are generated that they give rise to a wealth of ideas. Such problems are also considered as the kind of problem that would lead to inquiry in social studies. They necessitate different forms of inquiry processes and call for different types of scaffolding compared to well-defined problems (Muukkonen et al., 2004). With illdefined problems, scaffolding efforts are often channeled into conceptual clarification, knowledge building, argumentation, and evaluation. Such problems encourage students to break from established knowledge and take new perspectives.

The decision-making model recommends that when students are presented with ill-defined problems they pay attention to the specifics of the problem, develop and test hypotheses, and conduct systematic data collection and analysis (Figure 9.1). When students solve controversial issues by this model, they relate the knowledge that they have derived from social inquiry to the values relating to the resolution of these issues. These values are identified and then clarified by prioritizing the value of each decision. Each inquiry has its own well-defined problem-solving process. It is recognized that values have cognitive content, which can be modified and directed toward certain goals in the decision process. Hence, combining social inquiry with value inquiry can produce synergy. However, controversial issues dealt with by the decision-making model may be reduced to well-defined problems because social inquiry and value inquiry do not take place simultaneously.

Therefore, the decision-making model is not satisfactory for exploiting controversial issues in ill-defined problems. In addition, the goal of inquiry in this model is to come to an agreed decision. However, some students may be inclined to solve problems in unique ways. PBL provides opportunities for students to find creative ways of solving ill-defined problems.

The Internet-enhanced Seven-Jump PBL Model

This model was developed by Bae (2007) and incorporated into K–10 curricula. The PBL process begins with problem presentation. Ten tutorials are held to build students' skills in using the Internet resources and to develop their thinking skills for solving the problems. Each tutorial class has six groups with six students in each group. The groups plan and carry out the work necessary to acquire the needed knowledge and skills. Each group member selects one or more of the learning issues identified to work on. As it is difficult for inexperienced students to form ideas for the resolution of the problems from the outset, they are given time to develop different options and perspectives in planning their tasks.

The teacher provides scaffolding by modeling and facilitating the desired problem-solving processes while engaging students in authentic inquiry activities such as presenting the problem, clarifying concepts and terms, defining the problem, analyzing the problem, drawing up an inventory of possible explanations for the problem, formulating individual learning issues, searching for information, and synthesizing the explanations (Figure 9.2).

Self-directed learning occurs when students relate newly acquired knowledge to what they already know in resolving individual learning issues (Mayer, 1998). In the Internet-enhanced model, unlike in the traditional seven-jump model, the teacher uses the Internet to scaffold the inquiry process during self-directed learning. A Web-based bulletin board with two columns labeled "What We Know" and "What We Need to Know" is set up, on which students document their prior knowledge under "What We Know" and the hypotheses that they believe are critical to finding out more about the learning issues under "What We Need to Know." Students' prior knowledge should be related to the hypotheses that may be part of the solution. The second column then drives students' information search. This process is repeated as needed with students continuing to gather new information that in turn may change what they know and raise a new need to generate more questions and ideas. Through this process, they build up a knowledge base or "knowledge inventory"—an incubator for creative decision making.

After a period of self-directed learning, group members return to the problem armed with increased knowledge and skills. With complex social issues, this process of knowledge synthesis continues until the problem is resolved and the decisions are justified based on the principles and mechanisms underlying the issues. At the same time, each group reflects on its argumentation process, both collectively and individually, during which each member assesses himself or herself and is likewise assessed by the teacher.

Finally, each group presents its solutions to the class. This session provides clarification and further ideas to complement the group's evidence, warrants, and conclusions. Assisting students to construct sound knowledge structures for understanding controversial issues can help them develop literacy along with argumentation skills.

Internet-enhanced PBL: A Viable Alternative?

The developed model has key characteristics that make it appealing as an alternative instructional approach. First, the problems used incorporate real-world challenges. Well-designed real-world problems possess characteristics that can stimulate the generation of myriad ideas. By generating ideas, students increase their understanding of the problem. When teaching macroeconomic concepts such as national income, gross domestic product, price determination, and international economics, teachers can extract or adapt from newspapers authentic, open-ended problems such as the following:

On November 19, 1997, South Korea's finance minister said that he didn't have a choice. "The Korean economy was almost bankrupt," he said in an interview. "Foreign reserves were almost running out. There was no other option." The won lost half its value in November 1997 when Seoul reversed its policy and allowed the currency to float. At that time, some key macroeconomic indicators were in fact strong, he said. But some other indicators pointed to excessive borrowing. The country's balance of payments deficit had surged to more than $20 billion. Close to half of its foreign debt was short-term.

The minister met top U.S. Treasury and International Monetary Fund officials visiting Seoul. Their message was clear: Washington would only help Seoul if it agreed to an IMF bail-out. A deal was reached within weeks, and South Korea ended up with a package of more than $58 billion—the biggest ever seen.

Question 1. How might the major macroeconomic indicators correlate considering the excessive borrowing situation at that time?

Question 2. What is your opinion regarding how the major macroeconomic indicators should behave and interrelate in order to achieve economic stability?

Question 3. Between economic stability and economic growth, which should be the priority for a country?

Authentic tasks, because of their inherent complexity, get students to seek different solutions according to the perspectives they take. The development of multiple perspectives demonstrates cognitive flexibility and creativity, and it paves the way toward deeper and broader learning. With multiple points of view being presented in class discussions, students gain deeper understanding of the concepts being taught as well as broaden their perspectives on economic issues. Because students are allowed to deal with information in a flexible way, they are free from fixed ideas while at the same time getting the opportunity to arrive at new perspectives.

Learning in this way can lead to deep learning and lay the foundation for creativity, although it requires considerable scaffolding from the teacher to ensure that students are able to successfully carry out the complex tasks. By contrast, in the decision-making model, students utilize an established set of knowledge when solving controversial issues, which prevents them from developing more complex and flexible knowledge structures that are required for solving ill-structured problems (Spiro et al., 1991). As a result, learners develop oversimplified views of the world because they are trying to apply rigid, compartmentalized knowledge to ill-defined situations that cannot be adequately accounted for by these simple knowledge structures.

Secondly, the PBL approach promotes metacognitive awareness. It provides opportunities for students to identify existing gaps in their knowledge, which prompts them to address the deficiency. In the process, their ability to construct new and different knowledge develops. As students interact and work with others in trying to solve the problem and make a value decision, they have the opportunity to reflect on their own understanding and construct more useful, internalized representations of the concepts (Collins et al., 1989), thereby enhancing their metacognitive skills. Through dialogue and interaction, the teacher and students together engage in a collaborative inquiry process that can potentially enhance students' literacy and their argumentation skills.

Economic literacy implies that students have their own organization of knowledge in that domain. Students' organization of knowledge helps them know when, why, and how their knowledge inventory and skills are relevant in their argumentation concerning the problem situation. Domain-relevant knowledge and skills are one of the three components of creativity proposed by Amabile (1989). The other two components are creativity-relevant skills and task motivation. Four cognitive traits of creativity have been suggested, and they are fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. It can be inferred that the organization of knowledge is not only an element of creativity but also a part of argumentation, allowing students to assess their knowledge inventory and motivating them to learn the knowledge that they lack.

Using the Internet to Enhance the Inquiry Process

The developed PBL model enhances the inquiry process by exploiting the power of the Internet. To facilitate interaction, a Web-based collaborative and networking tool, a bulletin board, is set up for all members of the groups to access in and outside class.

Using this tool, students can become part of a virtual discussion group. They can post messages, ask questions, raise issues, and respond to the comments of others. Through the use of the Internet, scaffolding of students' thinking and knowledge construction can be facilitated. Cognitive apprenticeship is embedded in the bulletin board to guide students in building the necessary knowledge base to support their argumentation. The online facility allows the groups' deliberations, multiple viewpoints, and acquired information to be documented and shared outside tutorials. Exposing individual responses to the scrutiny of the group can also facilitate the clarification of viewpoints and lead to a more focused discussion of the issues.

An argumentation tool (Figure 9.3) is also installed on the course Web site to guide students in arguing their positions. The process of argumentation advances from the initial nonspecific questions to specific learning issues developed during small-group discussions. The learning issues act as a premise. A premise has to be supported by evidence and warrants. A warrant is based on theory. When students participate in argumentation with other group members, they progress through the "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1978) as they critically examine each learning issue, considering the evidence and warrants that support it and the conclusion toward which they point.


When students deal with controversial issues, they need to employ divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is a core element of creativity (Davis & Rimm, 1989; Amabile, 1989). Thus, to solve controversial issues, it is essential to adopt an inquiry model that is geared to promoting creativity (Maxim, 2003). The Internet-enhanced seven-jump PBL model, as noted earlier, engages students in more creative thinking in resolving controversial issues than the decision-making model. The developed model is not just a problem-solving process; it also leads to the learning of subject knowledge. The synergistic interactions between the activities of problem solving and subject knowledge acquisition lead students toward expertise in solving controversial issues. Therefore, this model can act as a catalyst in fostering creativity and developing economic literacy and argumentation skills.


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Internet-enhanced Seven-Jump Problem-based Learning: Promoting Creativity, Economic Literacy, and Argumentation Skills

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