Enhancing students’ thinking skills through project-based learning in biology

  • Denny Muhammad Fajar SMA Pradita DIrgantara
  • Murni Ramli Biology Education, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia
  • Joko Ariyanto Biology Education, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia
  • Sri Widoretno Biology Education, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia
  • S Sajidan Biology Education, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia
  • Nanik Murti Prasetyanti Biology Teacher, Public Senior High School 3 Surakarta, Indonesia
Keywords: Cognitive Skills, PjBL, Question, Statement


This research aims to enhance students' thinking skills (TS) through a project-based learning (PBL) intervention in two cycles of classroom action research (CAR) on the topic of the Ecosystem. TS was determined by the quantity and quality of the students' questions (SQ) and statements (SS), which were determined based on Bloom's taxonomy. The research target was students in grade X (N=31) of one social science class at a public high school in Surakarta. Their TS were rated as low during the Pre-cycle. Based on their verbal activities, the students were categorized into five active (A) and non-active (NA) groups (A-1, A-2, NA-1, NA-2, and NA-3). The NA students were more engaged after the two cycles of CAR. Although the A-1 and A-2 students posed more SQ and SS than the NA students, some of the NA-1, NA-2, and NA-3 students performed positively. In the Pre-cycle, only the C1 and C2 cognitive levels were detected, mostly as factual and conceptual. During the CAR, however, C4, C5, and C6 were found as procedural. In Cycle II, we can find a few examples of metacognition. Overall, this research has shown that PBL can be used to increase student learning engagement. They become active communicators. There was evidence that the quality of students' questions and statements improved to the level of C6 and metacognition. Hopefully, further research can be conducted on the impact of grouping strategies during PBL activities by purposively combining high-achieving students or actively questioning and giving their peers statements in the opposite situation.


Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. In Longman New York.

Asyari, M., Al Muhdhar, M. H. I., Susilo, H., & Ibrohim, I. (2016). Improving critical thinking skills through the integration of problem based learning and group investigation. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 5(1), 36-44. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLLS-10-2014-0042

Barlow, A., & Brown, S. (2020). Correlations between modes of student cognitive engagement and instructional practices in undergraduate STEM courses. International Journal of STEM Education, 7, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-020-00214-7

Bowker, M. H. (2010). Teaching students to ask questions instead of answering them. Thought & Action, 26, 127-134. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257968538_Teaching_Students_to_Ask_Questions_Instead_of_Answering_Them

Braaten, M., & Windschitl, M. (2011). Working toward a stronger conceptualization of scientific explanation for science education. Science education, 95(4), 639-669.. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20449

Capraro, R. M., Capraro, M. M., & Morgan, J. R. (Eds.). (2013). STEM project-based learning: An integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) approach. Springer Science & Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6209-143-6

Chin, C., & Osborne, J. (2008). Students' questions: a potential resource for teaching and learning science. Studies in science education, 44(1), 1-39. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057260701828101

Chin, C., & Osborne, J. (2010). Supporting argumentation through students' questions: Case studies in science classrooms. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(2), 230-284. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508400903530036

Cicek, V., & Tok, H. (2014). Effective use of lesson plans to enhance education in US and Turkish kindergarten thru 12th grade public school system: A comparative study. International Journal of Teaching and Education, 2(2), 10-20. http://www.iises.net/?p=10356

Damşa, C., Nerland, M., & Andreadakis, Z. E. (2019). An ecological perspective on learner-constructed learning spaces. British Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12855

Davies, D., Jindal-Snape, D., Collier, C., Digby, R., Hay, P., & Howe, A. (2013). Creative learning environments in education—A systematic literature review. Thinking skills and creativity, 8, 80-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2012.07.004

Dkeidek, I., Mamlok-Naaman, R., & Hofstein, A. (2011). Effect of culture on high-school students’ question-asking ability resulting from an inquiry-oriented chemistry laboratory. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9(6), 1305-1331. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-010-9261-0

Edmunds, J., Arshavsky, N., Glennie, E., Charles, K., & Rice, O. (2017). The relationship between project-based learning and rigor in STEM-focused high schools. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 11(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1618

Fuad, N. M., Zubaidah, S., Mahanal, S., & Suarsini, E. (2017). Improving junior high schools’ critical thinking skills based on test three different models of learning. International Journal of Instruction, 10(1), 101-116. https://doi.org/10.12973/iji.2017.1017a

Gillies, R. M., & Boyle, M. (2010). Teachers' reflections on cooperative learning: Issues of implementation. Teaching and teacher Education, 26(4), 933-940. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2009.10.034

Hofstein, A., Navon, O., Kipnis, M., & Mamlok-Naaman, R. (2005). Developing students' ability to ask more and better questions resulting from inquiry‐type chemistry laboratories. Journal of research in science teaching, 42(7), 791-806. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20072

Jayapabra, G., & Kanmani, M. (2013). Metacognitive awareness in science classroom of higher secondary students. International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications, 4(3), 49-56.

Jayapraba, G. (2013). Metacognitive instruction and cooperative learning strategies for promoting insightful learning in science. International Journal on New Trends and Their Implications, 4(1), 165–172.

Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., & Nixon, R. (2014). The Action Research Planner. In The Action Research Planner. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-4560-67-2

Krauss, Jj., & Boss, S. (2014). Thinking Through Project-Based Learning: Guiding Deeper Inquiry. In Library Media Connection.

Kuhn, D. (2010). Teaching and learning science as argument. Science Education, 94(5), 810-824. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20395

Meyer, X. (2014). Productive disciplinary engagement as a recursive process: Initial engagement in a scientific investigation as a resource for deeper engagement in the scientific discipline. International Journal of Educational Research, 64, 184-198.. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2013.07.002

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, M. A. (2012). Analisis Data Kualitatif: Buku Sumber Tentang Metode-Metode Baru. Jakarta: Universitas Indonesia_UI Press.

Moreira, F., Ferreira, M. J., Cardoso, A., Gomes, A. S., & Collazos, C. (2018). Learning ecosystem for higher education disruption: a new approach proposal based on blended active learning techniques. In Edulearn 18. 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technology (Palma, 2nd-4th of July, 2018): conference proceedings (pp. 843-853). IATED Academy. https://doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2018.0294

Musyaddad, A., & Suyanto, S. (2019). Evoking the four dimensions of student knowledge in ecosystem: effectiveness of real object, web, and blended learning. Biosfer: Jurnal Pendidikan Biologi, 12(2), 194–210. https://doi.org/10.21009/biosferjpb.v12n2.194-210

Nhan, H., & Nhan, T. A. (2019). Different Grouping Strategies for Cooperative Learning in English Majored Seniors and Juniors at Can Tho University, Vietnam. Education Sciences, 9(1), 59-.https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010059

Pedaste, M., Mäeots, M., Siiman, L. A., de Jong, T., van Riesen, S. A. N., Kamp, E. T., Manoli, C. C., Zacharia, Z. C., & Tsourlidaki, E. (2015). Phases of inquiry-based learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle. Educational research review, 14, 47-61.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2015.02.003

Pramudiyanti, Susilo, H., Hastuti, U. S., & Lestari, U. (2019). The efforts to foster students’ skill in making questions through thinking tool (Question matrix) development. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 8(1), 119–128. https://doi.org/10.15294/jpii.v8i1.15347

Rocca, K. A. (2010). Student participation in the college classroom: An extended multidisciplinary literature review. Communication education, 59(2), 185-213. https://doi.org/10.1080/03634520903505936

Saputri, A. C., Sajidan, Rinanto, Y., Afandi, & Prasetyanti, N. M. (2019). Improving students' critical thinking skills in cell-metabolism learning using stimulating higher order thinking skills model. International Journal of Instruction, 12(1), 327-342. https://doi.org/10.29333/iji.2019.12122a

Seraphin, K., & Philippoff, J. (2012). Metacognition as means to increase the effectiveness of inquiry-based science education. Science Education International, 23(4), 366-382. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1001630.pdf

Skinner, V. J., Braunack-Mayer, A., & Winning, T. A. (2015). The purpose and value for students of PBL groups for learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 9(1), 19-32. https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1499

Snyder, L. G., & Snyder, M. J. (2008). Teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, L (2), 90–100.

Spector, J., & Park, S. W. (2012). Argumentation, critical reasoning, and problem solving. In The role of criticism in understanding problem solving (pp. 13-33). Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3540-2_2

Trumper, R. (2006). Factors affecting junior high school students’ interest in physics. Journal of Science Education and Technology 15(1), 47-58. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-006-0355-6

Turgut, H. (2008). Prospective Science teachers’ conceptualizations about project based learning. Online Submission, 1(1), 61-79.

Webb, N. M. (2009). The teacher's role in promoting collaborative dialogue in the classroom. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(1), 1-28.. https://doi.org/10.1348/000709908X380772

Widoretno, S., Ramli, M., & Ga, A. (2016). The Role of Lesson Study to Improve Posing Question Skills of Teacher and Students in Problem Based Learning. Proceeding of International Conference on Teacher Training and Education, 1(1), 648–656.

Williams, D. R., Brule, H., Kelley, S. S., & Skinner, E. A. (2018). Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): A study of students’ motivation, achievement, and science identity in low-income middle schools. International journal of STEM education, 5(1), 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-018-0104-9

Ziyaeemehr, A. (2016). Use of Questioning techniques and the cognitive thinking processes involved in student-lecturer interactions. International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 3(1), 1427–1442.

How to Cite
Denny Muhammad Fajar, Ramli, M., Ariyanto, J., Widoretno, S., Sajidan, S., & Prasetyanti, N. M. (2020). Enhancing students’ thinking skills through project-based learning in biology. Biosfer: Jurnal Pendidikan Biologi, 13(2), 230-249. https://doi.org/10.21009/biosferjpb.v13n2.230-249