The Nature of Problem Solving

Using Research to Inspire 21st Century Learning

image of The Nature of Problem Solving

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.



Factors that influence the difficulty of problem-solving items

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

This chapter presents a study undertaken by the authors using data from the PISA 2012 computer-based assessment of problem solving. It considered ten characteristics understood to influence the difficulty of items used in problem-solving assessement. Each item was rated to reflect the amount of each characteristic it possessed. The item responses from about 85 000 participants from 44 countries were analysed to obtain item response theory (IRT) estimates of item difficulties. The predictor characteristics were analysed in a number of ways, including a hierarchical cluster analysis, regression analysis with item difficulty as outcome variable and a principal component factor analysis. The main characteristics predicting difficulty seem to be: the complexity and type of reasoning skills involved in solving the problem; the amount of opportunity the solver is given to experiment or uncover hidden facets in a problem scenario (more opportunity to explore and experiment will make a problem easier); and the number and nature of constraints that a solution must satisfy (complex or conflicting constraints will make a problem more difficult).


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error