The Nature of Problem Solving

Using Research to Inspire 21st Century Learning

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Solving non-routine problems is a key competence in a world full of changes, uncertainty and surprise where we strive to achieve so many ambitious goals. But the world is also full of solutions because of the extraordinary competences of humans who search for and find them. We must explore the world around us in a thoughtful way, acquire knowledge about unknown situations efficiently, and apply new and existing knowledge creatively.

The Nature of Problem Solving presents the background and the main ideas behind the development of the PISA 2012 assessment of problem solving, as well as results from research collaborations that originated within the group of experts who guided the development of this assessment. It illustrates the past, present and future of problem-solving research and how this research is helping educators prepare students to navigate an increasingly uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world.



EcoSphere: A new paradigm for problem solving in complex systems

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

The western perspective on the environment has changed in the last decades. Many natural processes, such as hurricanes or tsunamis, and cultural ones, such as nuclear power plants or space missions, hold immense potential to cause problems, so the current state of the world is often seen as a complex system. Dealing with complex systems, particularly unstable ones with autonomously changing (eigendynamic) elements, will be one of the key competences for future generations, which is why measuring and training these competences is so important today. This chapter focuses on measuring competency at problem solving in complex systems (PSCS). It introduces the processes involved in human problem solving – from observation, whether through instruction or active construction, to exploration and finally regulation, and discusses their relations to the environment, which is built up of complex systems. It then presents the new assessment tool EcoSphere, which is a simulation framework for testing and training human behaviour in complex systems. In particular, it allows test takers’ previous knowledge to be taken into account to better measure their problem-solving abilities.


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