The Impacts of 'Problem-Based Learning’ Approach in Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills to Teaching Literature

Mairas Abd Rahman, Mohd Nazri Latiff Azmi, Zanirah binti Wahab, Ahmad Taufik Hidayah bin Abdullah, Nor Jijidiana binti Azmi


Teaching can be challenging task especially when the students are categorized as reluctant readers, low self-motivated and lack of critical thinking skills. Therefore, this study focuses on a successful problem-based learning approach on university course called ‘Literature for Language Purposes' taken by Bachelor of English with Communication students at a local Malaysian university. The aim of this study is to investigate the impacts of carrying out problem-based learning in teaching literature. The project involved 55 undergraduates and part of their major course assignments was to organize and participate in an annual English language drama competition. The data was collected through students’ reflective journals, researchers’ reflective journals, response from end of semester questionnaire given and, lecturers’ evaluation on FILA tables. The findings show that problem-based learning is suitable and beneficial in teaching and enhancing critical thinking skills.



Problem-based learning, literature, drama, critical thinking

Full Text:



Ausubel, D.P., Novak, J.D., & Hanesian, H. (1978). Educational psychology: A cognitive view (2nded.). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Baden, M. (2000). Problem-based learning in higher education : untold stories. Buckingham England Philadelphia, PA: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.) (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Bridges, E.M., & Hallinger, P. (1998). Problem-based learning in medical and managerial education. In R.Fogarty (Ed.), Problem-based learning: A collection of articles (pp. 3019). Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight.

Brookfield, S.D. (1987). Developing critical thinkers: Challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brush, T., & Saye, J. (2001). The use of embedded scaffolds with hypermedia-supported student-centered learning. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10, 333-356.

Coles, C.R. (1990). Evaluating the effects curricula have on student learning: Toward a more competent theory for medical education. In Z.M. Nooman, H.G. Schmidt, & E.S. Ezzat (Eds.), Innovation in medical education: An evaluation of its present status (pp. 76-93). New York: Springer.

Coles, M. and Robinson, W. (1991) ‘Teaching thinking. What is it? Is it possible?’ in M.Coles and W. Robinson, Teaching Thinking, Bristol, Bristol Classical Press, pp. 1-23

Costa, A.L., & O’ Leary, P.W. (1992).The cooperative development of the intellect. In N.Davidson & T. Worsham (Eds.), Enhancing thinking through cooperative learning (pp. 41-65). New

York: Teachers College Press.

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Davidson, N., & Worsham, T. (Eds.) (1992).Enhancing thinking through cooperative learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

Desiatova, L. (2009).Using Different Forms of Drama in the EFL Classroom.Humanising Language Teaching, 4. Retrieved from http://www.

Ertmer, P.A., & Glazewski, K.D. (2005). Scaffolding teachers’ efforts to implement problem-based learning.International Journal of Learning, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp.319-328. Retrieved from


Facione, P.A. (n.d). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts.

Fincham, A.G., & Shuler, C.F. (2001). The changing face of dental education: The impact of PBL. Journal of Dental Education, 65, 406-21.

Fleming, M. (2006). Drama and language teaching: the relevance of Wittgenstein's concept of language games. Humanising Language Teaching.4. Retrieved from

Gokhale, A. A. (1995) Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. Journal of Technology Education,7(1), 22-30. Retrieved from

Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review,16, 235-266.

Honore, S. & Schofield, C.P. (2009). Generation y: Learning and working. Retrieved from

Hunkins, F.P. (1989). Teaching thinking through effective questioning. Boston: Christopher-Gordon.

Hussain,M.A.,Nafees,M. and Jumani, N.B.(2009).The Second Language Learners’ Achievement in Literature through Problem Based Learning Method. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Vol.

(3), 87-94. Retrieved from

Jeffery, B., and Woods, P. (2003). The creative school: A framework for success, quality and effectiveness. New York: Routledge Falmer.

Jones, S. J. (2006). Blogging and ESL writing: A case study of how students responded to the use of weblogs as a pedagogical tool for the writing process approach in a community college ESL writing class. Dissertations & Theses. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database.(Publication No. 3254430)

Kain, D.L.(2003). Problem-based learning for teachers, Grades 6-12. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Kinney, J. (1980) ‘Why bother? The importance of critical thinking’, in R.E Young, Fostering Critical Thinking, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, San Francisco, Jossey-Bas, pp. 1-10.

Kirszner, L. &Mandell, S. (2007). Literature : reading, reacting, writing. Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Keeley, S. and Shemberg, K. (1995) ‘Coping with student resistance to critical thinking’, College Teaching, 43(4), 140-147

Kuhn, D. (1999) ‘ A developmental model of critical thinking’, Educational Researcher, 28(2), 16-26

Maley, A. & Duff, A. (2005). Drama techniques : a resource book of communication activities for language teachers. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press.

Maudsley, G., & Strivens, J. (2000). Promoting professional knowledge, experiential learning and critical thinking for medical students. Medical Education, 34, 535-44.

McCombs, B.L., & Whistler, J.S. (1997).The learner-centered classroom and school. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.Newble, D.I., & Clarke, R.M. (1986). The approaches to learning of students in a traditional and in an innovative problem-based medical school. Medical Education, 19, 267-73.

McKay, J and Kember, D. (1997) ‘Spoonfeeding lead to regurgitation: a better diet can result in more digestible learning outcomes’, Higher Education Research and Development, 16(1), 55-67

Meyers, C. (1986) Teaching Students to Think Critically, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Normala Othman and Mohamed Ismail Ahamad Shah (2013), Problem-based learning in the English classroom. English Language Teaching, Vol. 6, No 3, 2013. Pp. 125-127. Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P.T. (1991).How college affects students: Findings and insight from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rashid, A. R., Rahman, M. F. A., &Rahman, S. B. A. (2016). Teachers’ engagement in social support process on a networking site. Journal of Nusantara Studies, 1(1), 34-45.

Rhem, J. (1998). Problem-based learning: An introduction. National Teaching and Learning Forum, 8, 1-4.

Davies, M. & Barnett, R. (2015). The Palgrave handbook of critical thinking in higher education. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sadker, D., Sadker, M. & Zittleman, K. (2008). Teachers, schools, and society (8th ed.) Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Schunk, D.H. (2000). Learning theories: An educational perspective (3rded.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday.

Siti Norliana Ghazali (2008). Learner Background and Their Attitudes towards Studying Literature. Malaysian Journal of ELT Research, 4, 1-17.

Stinson, J.E., & Milter, R.G. (1996). Problem-based learning in business education: Curriculum design and implementation issues. In L. Wilkerson & W.H. Gijselaers (Eds.), Bringing problem-based learning to higher education: Theory and practice (pp. 33-42). New directions for teaching and learning, No. 68. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Svinicki, M.D. (1999). Teaching and learning on the edge of the millennium: Building on what we have learned. New directions for teaching and learning, No. 80. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tan, O.S. (2009). Problem-based learning and creativity. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia.

Tan, O.S. (2004). Cognition, Metacognition, and Problem-based Learning. In Tan, O.S. (Ed.), Enhancing thinking through problem-based learning approaches: International perspectives (pp. 1-16). Singapore:Thomson Learning.

Tan, O.S. (2003). Problem-based learning innovation. Singapore: Thomson.

Vernon, D.T.A., & Blake, R.L. (1993). Does problem-based learning work? A meta-analysis of evaluative research. Academic Medicine, 68, 550-63.

Weissinger, P.A. (2003). Critical thinking skills of first-year dental students enrolled in a hybrid curriculum with a problem-based learning component. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Zhang, D. (2009). The application of blog in English writing.Journal of CambridgeStudies, 4(1), 64-72. Retrieved from

Zyoud , M. (n.d). Using Drama Activities and Techniques to Foster Teaching English as a Foreign Language: a Theoretical Perspective. Retrieved from



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.