Problem Solving for Learning
As individuals and group members we are presented with various types of problems each day. Some problems are straightforward: what to wear, what music to listen to and how to spend our free time. Some problems are demanding but are not related to what students learn in schools: brain twisters, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc. Some problems we confront require us to learn new things or assemble existing knowledge in new ways before we can solve them. It is this third type of problem that EdSteps is seeking to collect, problems that create opportunities for students to learn in depth. We call this process Problem Solving for Learning.
Although schools present students with many problems to be solved – homework problems, worksheet problems, fill-in-the-blank problems -- most of these problems are solved by recalling information or applying algorithms. Problem Solving for Learning is built around a different kind of problem and engages students in a more complex and elaborate solution process.
Problem Solving for Learning divides the problem solving process into two parts: the problem to be solved and the process for solving the problem.
■■The problem is one that has several possible correct answers and/or paths to reach a solution.
■■The problem solving process requires purposeful inquiry, careful analysis and the development of one or more lines of reasoning that resolve the issues raised by the problem.
When engaged in Problem Solving for Learning, students obtain and apply new knowledge and skills as they generate and evaluate potential solutions. They are able to explain and rationally justify the solutions they reach. In some instances, their solutions will affect others and have an impact within and/beyond the school setting.
Work that Demonstrates Problem Solving for Learning
■■ Problem-Based Learning structured around a scenario, simulation or role play
■■ Project-Based Learning focused on “Driving” or “Essential” Questions
■■ Mathematics and Science Problems that require inquiry (as opposed to routine application of a practiced procedure)
■■ Problems in any subject area that require systematic analysis and development of arguments
■■ Problems whose solutions result in the creation or redesign of a tool, artifact, or product
■■ Problems that inspire students to take action in resolving emergent individual, local, national or global issues
The Problem Solving workgroup is chaired by John Mergendoller, Executive Director of the Buck Institute for Education.
The workgroup is comprised of leading educators from state departments of education, Wake Forest University Medical School, the Metiri Group, the Ohio Department of Education and others.