Develop Argumentation Competency

Through an ICT-enabled PBL Approach


In Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore Framework for 21st Century Competencies, it stated clearly that critical thinking skills was one important competency for students to adapt to the globalised world and new digital age they lived in. Thus, in 2010, the Ministry of Education (MOE) charted the direction to prepare learners to thrive in a future driven by globalization and technological advancements. MOE (2010) specifically dictated that learners should develop competencies in namely civic literacy, global awareness and cross-cultural skills, information and communication skills, as well as critical and inventive thinking, for the 21st Century.

The syllabus of Secondary Chinese Language was reviewed to reflect the required emphasis on developing students’ thinking skills. The Chinese Language syllabus explicitly spelled out the thinking skills namely comparison and contrast, synthesis and classification, deduction and induction, creativity, analysis and evaluation, and problem-solving, which students should develop through the learning of Chinese Language (MOE, 2010).

The Chinese Language team in school explored and decided to harness ICT with Problem-based learning to help students to develop information and communication skills and critical thinking skill.

Research studies revealed that Problem based learning (PBL) is an effective instructional approach to develop critical thinking skills in education (Chee, 2001; Hmelo & Lin., 2000; Iwaoka & Rhee, 2010; Shepherd, 1998; Sungur & Tekkaya. 2006; Vernon & Blake, 1992; Weissinger, 2004) Furthermore, Problem based learning could situate aptly in Chinese language learning by creating opportunities for students to acquire writing and reading skills through problem-based context, collaborate with one another to co-construct knowledge, as well as develop their critical thinking skills in applications of language learning.

ICT played an integral role in PBL to develop students’ critical thinking skills as well as positive attitude towards learning (Shepherd, 1998), engaged students in more creative thinking in resolving controversial issues (Bae, 2009), and enhanced online interaction and collaboration among students to solve complex problems productively (Ronteltap, Koehorst & Imbos, 2007; Suzuki et al., 2007; Tan & Looi, 2007). During this process, ICT could be used to communicate, express, connect and consolidate ideas; make thinking visible; elicit evidence of learning; scaffold cognitive process, chart learning process.

In 2015, the Chinese Language team in the school embarked on an Action Research project with MOE, Educational Technology Division (ETD) in harnessing ICT with Problem-based learning, aiming to achieve the learning outcomes of students developing 21st century competencies of information and communication skills, as well as critical and inventive thinking skills by developing students’ argumentation competency at the same time enhancing students’ critical thinking skill which was an imperative component for argumentative writing.

Research Question

Will ICT PBL Pedagogical Model help to develop students’ Argumentation Competency?


The key considerations in the design of PBL lesson entail the following characteristics:

  • Learners to use an open-ended real world problem as a catalyst to trigger learning.
  • Learners engage in self-directed learning as they plan, implement and evaluate their overall learning experience.
  • Learners work collaboratively to achieve learning outcomes.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize content knowledge, process skills and learning attitudes. (Content knowledge is help students to construct the contents in argumentative writing; process skills is help students to develop their critical thinking skills)
  • It is student- centered, Teachers shift the role of facilitators and co-learners.

1. Design

1.1 Problem crafting

Problem crafting was crucial for the effectiveness of Problem-Based learning. We adopted Hung’s (2009) “3C3R model” to crafted an ill-structured problem scenario.

The 3C3R Framework consists of two classes of components: core components and processing components. Core components are content, context, and connection. 3C were used to support content learning in PBL; Processing components were researching, reasoning, and reflecting. 3R supported the learners’ cognitive processes of learning and problem-solving skills.

1.2 PBL Process

The design of learning experiences was based on ICT PBL Pedagogical Model (Fig. 1). The model comprised 5 stages and 8 steps, encompassing the PBL learning process (Fig. 2); and student's and teacher's roles, which helped to understand what was involved in active learning and how active learning was promoted. This PBL learning process helped to enhance students’ critical thinking skills, also help them to construct the content in argumentative writing.

PBL ICT Pedagogical Model was as followed:

Fig. 1: ICT PBL Pedagogical Model

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Critical Thinking Skills and Process of level up Argumentation Competency through PBL stages was as followed:

Fig. 2: PBL Learning Process

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2. Enactment

2.1 ICT tools used for learning experiences

A PBL Google site as our teaching platform was set up and incoprated PBL 5 stages 8 steps with instructions as guidance within the site. Google documents were also created for each group students to engage into the learning activities. Mindomo was also used as mind mapping software.

2.2 Curriculum Intervention

The target groups for the research project were Sec 3 Higher Chinese students and Sec 3 Express students. 2 Cycles of curriculum Interventions were carried out during the period of the research study.

When students were engaged in learning, we harnessed ICT to scaffold cognitive process and make thinking visible. Hence, teachers could monitor students learning through interpreting students' artefacts, and at the same time enabling teacher and peer feedback for refinement of work. The archival capability of the ICT tool also allowed both teachers and students to monitor progression of learning.

The pedagogical model (see fig.2 on teacher's and students' roles) depicted effective teaching and learning process in PBL.

3. Evaluate

Rubrics were used to assess student's progress of learning (Fig. 3) and the product of learning (Fig. 4) which was a piece of augmentative essay produced by each student.

Fig. 3: Rubric for Accessing Progress of Learning

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Fig. 4: Rubric for Assessing Product of Learning

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Data Analysis

The results of the pre-test and post test for sec 3HCL and sec 3E (Fig. 5) were shown below:

Fig 5: Sec 3HCL & 3EA Pre-Test and Post Test Results

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Through comparing the results of pre-test and post-test, showed that both 3HCL and 3EA have improved their critical thinking skills, especially in Creativity skills, it means that students could see problem in various perspectives and consider all factors as well as offer a solution proposed. In addition, There was an improvement in students' argumentative writing in content, text type and language. There was a need to indicate that engaging in the PBL learning process helped students to construct the content, but text type and language ability were not the controlled variables in this study, thus the reasons to these improved results were yet to be explored.

Through comparing the results between sec 3HCL and 3EA, sec 3HCL’s has shown greater improvement than 3EA, explained that PBL could offer greater enhancement on the higher abilities students, but other contributing factor could be students’ attitude in learning.

Students’ Feedback and Teachers' Reflection

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Through comparing the results of pre-test and post-test, observing students ’ classroom performance, analyzing the pre-test and post test results, and summarizing students’ reflections, showed that ICT PBL Pedagogy Model helped to develop students’ critical thinking skills, positive attitude towards learning, enhance online interaction and collaboration among students to solve complex problems productively and as well as argumentation ability. Hereby, concluded harnessing ICT with PBL showed a positive impact on students' learning of Chinese Language.