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Abstract

Mental models are personal tools developed by students to help them apply ideas they have learned to solve problems. If students are not required to reflect on the adequacy of their current mental models, they risk arriving at suboptimal solutions due to knowledge gaps or misapplication of theory. After critically reflecting on the capstone project reports from students in an undergraduate information systems strategy and planning course, we argue that our students require a deeper and broader understanding of alternative management theories in order to become more effective and creative problem solvers. Furthermore, students must be made explicitly aware of the existence of (and adequacy of) their mental models using techniques such as concept mapping and critical reflection. Our solution to the problem of knowledge gaps is not to "push" more content to students, but to enable students to "pull" new ideas into their mental models once they recognize their existing mental models are inadequate. An action learning approach that combines problem-based learning, student-centered inquiry, concept mapping, and critical reflection can help students self-diagnose and treat their knowledge gaps. This in turn helps students develop into more effective, creative, and motivated critical thinkers and problem solvers.

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