Higher Education

, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 609–621 | Cite as

Problem-based learning and the development of metacognition

  • Kevin DowningEmail author
  • Theresa Kwong
  • Sui-Wah Chan
  • Tsz-Fung Lam
  • Woo-Kyung Downing


This study samples first year undergraduates from two programmes at a Hong Kong University (N = 66). One programme uses an entirely problem-based approach to learning and teaching, whilst the other uses more traditional methods. Using the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI) as a measure of student perceptions of their thinking, or metacognition it explores differences in metacognitive development between each group of students between the beginning and end of their first year in each programme. The paper argues that, in addition to the formal learning context, everyday challenges emerging from the additional new social contexts provided by problem-based curricula provide fertile environments for the development of metacognition because whilst the highest ‘meta-level’ of cognition is usually not implicated when we receive an outside task and when the task solution is known, the meta-level does tend to be consulted when things go wrong or when the situation is new. In other words, when we are faced with finding solutions to a problem whether posed by the teacher as part of a problem-based curriculum or a new social environment, we are more likely to develop generic, as well as subject specific skills.


A-level results Comparison of PBL and non-PBL LASSI Metacognition Problem-based learning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Downing
    • 1
    Email author
  • Theresa Kwong
    • 1
  • Sui-Wah Chan
    • 1
  • Tsz-Fung Lam
    • 1
  • Woo-Kyung Downing
    • 2
  1. 1.Education Development OfficeCity University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong SAR
  2. 2.Institute of Textiles and ClothingHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonHong Kong SAR

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