Strong information literacy, collaboration, and argumentation skills are essential to success in problem-based learning (PBL), and computer-based scaffolding plays a key role in helping students enhance these skills. As students search for information, identify root causes, and propose problem solutions, they are faced with choosing among alternatives that result in enhanced or diminished skill development. In this qualitative study, we use the agentic perspective of Bandura’s social cognitive theory to examine how students’ choices illuminate their priorities, values and perspectives with respect to PBL inquiry. Results indicate that when seeking evidence to support claims in a PBL setting, given the choice between teacher-provided resources and their own research, students choose teacher-provided resources. This supports Barrows’ original assertion about PBL that students are more likely to develop important skills like information literacy, self-directed learning, and problem solving when instructors refrain from providing domain specific knowledge prior to PBL activities.
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