Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 77–96 | Cite as

Scaffolding critical reasoning about history and social issues in multimedia-supported learning environments



This article advances a continuing line of research that investigates the potential of hypermedia resources and scaffolding for supporting problem-based social studies and developing critical reasoning. Our line of inquiry consists of a series of generative design experiments that informs problem-based curriculum development. Our findings suggest that expert guidance may be embedded into the learning environment to give students conceptual and strategic road maps that assist them in understanding the process of disciplined inquiry. However, our results also emphasize the difficulties in managing the cognitive challenges posed by ill-structured social problems and suggest limits to the embedded support that can be provided for complex thinking. Complex conceptual tasks may require spontaneous support that can only be provided by a skilled teacher. We suggest that embedded scaffolds may be used to support teachers by reducing the amount of spontaneous scaffolding they must do in an ill-structured environment and discuss other steps that might be taken to encourage problem-based inquiry.


Social Study Critical Reasoning Educational Technology Research Black Panther Party Soft Scaffolding 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ashby, R., & Lee, P. (1987). Children's concepts of empathy and understanding in history. In C. Portal (Ed.),The history curriculum for teachers (pp. 62–88). London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barba, S., Bowdish, B., & Lawless, K. (1997). Hypermedia navigation: Profiles of hypermedia users.Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 23–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barab, S., MaKinster, J., Moore, J., & Cunningham D. (2001). Designing and building an on-line community: The struggle to support sociability in the Internet learning forum.Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(4), 71–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barab, S., Young, M., & Wang, J. (1999). The effects of navigational and generative activities in hypertext learning on problem solving and comprehension.International Journal of Instructional Media 26(3), 282–309.Google Scholar
  5. Berson, M.J. (1996). Effectiveness of computer technology in the social studies: A review of the literature.Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 28(4), 486–499.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings.Journal of Learning Sciences 2(2), 141–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning.Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brush, T., & Saye, J. (2000). Implementation and evaluation of a student-centered learning unit: A case study.Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 79–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chi, M.T.H., Glaser, R., & Farr, M.J. (1988).The nature of expertise. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Choi, J., & Hannafin, M. (1995). Situated cognition and learning environments: Roles, structures, and implications for design.Educational Technology Research and Development, 43(2), 53–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design.Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1993). Anchored instruction and situated cognition revisited.Educational Technology, 33(3), 52–70.Google Scholar
  13. Cuban, L. (1984).How teachers taught. New York: Longmans.Google Scholar
  14. Doyle, W., & Ponder, G. (1977–78). The practicality ethic in teacher decision-making.Interchange, 8(3), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dwyer, D. (1994). Apple classrooms of tomorrow: What we've learned.Educational Leadership, 51(7), 4–10.Google Scholar
  16. Ehman, L.H., Glenn, A.D., Johnson, V., & White, C.S. (1998). Using computer databases in student problem solving. In J.A. Braun, P. Fernlund, & C.S. White (Eds.),Technology tools in the social studies curriculum (pp. 164–187). Wilsonville, OR: Frankilin, Beedle.Google Scholar
  17. Goetz, J., & LeCompte, M. (1984).Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Greene, S. (1994). Students as authors in the study of history. In G. Leinhardt, J. Beck, & C. Stainton (Eds.),Teaching and learning in history (pp. 137–170).Google Scholar
  19. Hannafin, M., Hill, J., & Land, S. (1997). Student-centered learning and interactive multimedia: Status, issues, and implication.Contemporary Education, 68(2), 94–99.Google Scholar
  20. Hannafin, M., Land, S., & Oliver, K. (1999). Open learning environments: Foundations, methods, and models. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.),Instructional design theories and models (Vol. II). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  21. Holt, T. (1990).Thinking historically: Narrative, imagination, and understanding. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.Google Scholar
  22. Hynd, C., Hubbard, B., Holschuh, J., Reinking, D., Jacobson, M. (2000).Reading like a historian: Critical reading of multiple texts in a hypertext environment. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.Google Scholar
  23. Jacobsen, M.J., Maouiri, C., Mishra, P., & Kolar, C. (1996). Learning with hypertext learning environments: Theory, design and research.Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 5(3/4), 239–281.Google Scholar
  24. Jacobson, M., & Spiro, R. (1994). A framework for the contextual analysis of technology-based learning environments.Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 5(2), 3–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jonassen, D. (1997). Instructional design models for well-structured and ill-structured problem-solving learning outcomes.Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(1), 65–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kagan, D.M. (1993).Laura and Jim and what they taught me about the gap between educational theory and practice. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kinzie, M., & Sullivan, H. (1989). Continuing motivation, learner control, and CAI.Educational Technology Research and Development, 37(2), 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuhn, D. (1999). A developmental model of critical thinking.Educational Researcher, 28(2), 16–26, 46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Land, S.M. (2000). Cognitive requirements for learning in open-ended learning environments.Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 61–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Land, S.M., & Hannafin, M. (1996). Patterns of understanding with open-ended learning environments: A qualitative study.Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(2), 47–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Linn, M. (1995). Designing computer learning environments for engineering and computer science: The scaffolded knowledge integration framework.Journal of Science Education and Technology, 4(2), 103–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Linn, M., Shear, L., Bell, P., & Slotta, J.D. (1999). Organizing principles for science education partnerships: Case studies of students' learning about ‘rats in space’ and ‘deformed frogs’.Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(2), 61–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Loh, B., Reiser, B., Radinsky, J., Edelson, D., Gomez, L., & Marshall, S. (2001). Developing reflective inquiry practices: A case study of software, the teacher, and students. In K. Crowley, C. Schunn, & T. Okada (Eds.),Designing for science: Implications from everyday, classroom, and professional settings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Lortie, D. (1975).School-teacher: A sociological study. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. NCSS. (1994).Expectations of excellence: Curriculum standards for the social studies. Washington: National Council for the Social Studies.Google Scholar
  36. Newmann, F.M. (1990). A test of higher-order thinking in social studies: Persuasive writing on constitutional issues using the NAEP approach.Social Education, 54(6), 369.Google Scholar
  37. Newmann, F.M. (1991). Higher order thinking in the teaching of social studies: Connections between theory and practice. In J. Voss, D. Perkins, & J. Segal (Eds.),Informal reasoning and education (pp. 381–400). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  38. Newmann, F.M., Wehlage, G.G., & Lamborn, S.D. (1992) The significance and sources of student engagement. In F. Newmann (Ed.),Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools (pp. 11–39). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  39. Oliver, K. (1999).Computer-based tools in support of Internet-based problem solving. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  40. Onosko, J. (1991). Barriers to the promotion of higher order thinking in social studies.Theory and Research in Social Education, 19(4), 341–366.Google Scholar
  41. O'Reilly, K. (1998). What would you do?Social Education, 62(1), 48.Google Scholar
  42. Palincsar, A., & Brown, A. (1984). Reciprocal teaching and comprehension-fostering and monitoring activities.Cognition & Instruction, 1(2), 117–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Parker, W.C., Mueller, M., & Wendling, L. (1989). Critical reasoning on civic issues.Theory and Research in Social Education, 17(1), 7–32.Google Scholar
  44. Patton, M.O. (1987).How to use qualitative methods in evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Perfetti, C.A., Britt, M.A., Van Dyke, J., & Gabrys, G. (1999).The sourcer's apprentice: A program of research and development in history instruction. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Montreal.Google Scholar
  46. Perkins, D.N., Allen, R., & Hafner, J. (1983). Difficulties in everyday reasoning. In W. Maxwell (Ed.),Thinking: The expanding frontier (pp. 177–189). Philadelphia: Franklin Institute.Google Scholar
  47. Rossi, J.A. (1995). In-depth study in an issues-centered social studies classroom.Theory and Research in Social Education, 23(2), 87–120.Google Scholar
  48. Rossi, J.A., & Pace, C.M. (1998). Issues-centered instruction with low achieving high school students: The dilemmas of two teachers.Theory and Research in Social Education, 26(3), 380–409.Google Scholar
  49. Sandoval, W., & Reiser, B. (1997, March).Evolving explanations in high school biology. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  50. Savenye, W., Brush, T., Middleton, J., Blocher, M., and others. (2002, April).Improving teaching with technology: The “best practices” digital video project. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  51. Saye, J.W. (1997). Technology and educational empowerment: Students' perspectives.Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(2), 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Saye, J.W. (1998). Technology in the classroom: The role of dispositions in teacher gatekeeping.Journal of Curriculum & Supervision, 13(3), 210–234.Google Scholar
  53. Saye, J.W., & Brush, T. (1999). Student engagement with social issues in a multimedia-supported learning environment.Theory and Research in Social Education 27(4), 472–504.Google Scholar
  54. Scheurman, G., & Newmann, F.M. (1998). Authentic intellectual work in social studies: putting performance before pedagogy.Social Education, 62(1), 21–35.Google Scholar
  55. Shaver, J.P. (1996). The prospects for issues-centered education. In R.W. Evans & D.W. Saxe (Eds.),Handbook on teaching social issues (pp. 380–386). Washington: National Council for the Social Studies.Google Scholar
  56. Shaver, J.P., Davis, O.L., & Helburn, S.W. (1979). The status of social studies education: Impressions from three NSF studies.Social Education, 4(3), 150–153.Google Scholar
  57. Shulman, L.S., & Carey, N.B. (1984). Psychology and the limitations of individual rationality: Implications for the study of reasoning and civility.Review of Educational Research, 54, 501–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Spiro, R.J., & Jehng, J.C. (1990). Cognitive flexibility and hypertext: Theory and technology for the nonlinear and multidimensional traversal of complex subject matter. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.),Cognition, education, and multimedia (pp. 163–205). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  59. Spoehr, K., & Spoehr, L. (1994). Learning to think historically.Educational Psychologist, 29(2), 71–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. VanSickle, R.L., & Hoge, J.D. (1991). Higher cognitive thinking skills in social studies: Concepts and critiques.Theory and Research in Social Education, 19(2), 152–172.Google Scholar
  61. Voss, J.F., Greene, T.R., Post, T.A., & Penner, B.C. (1983). Problem solving skill in the social sciences.The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  62. Wineburg, S.S. (1991a). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between the school and academy. American Educational Research Journal,28(3), 495–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wineburg, S.S. (1991b). Historical problem solving: A study of cognitive processes used in the evaluation of documentary and pictorial evidence.Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(1), 73–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wineburg, S.S., & Wilson, S.M. (1991). Subject-matter knowledge in the teaching of history.Advances in Research on Teaching, Vol. 2, 305–347.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Auburn UniversityAuburn UniversityAuburn UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Auburn UniversityIndiana UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations