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.



Problem solving: Understanding complexity as uncertainty

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

Understanding complexity has dominated the domain of problem solving. There needs to be a cohesive idea about what makes problem solving hard in contexts broadly described as complex, and what are the sources of errors in problem solving in situations thought to be complex. This chapter argues that our understanding of complexity requires an overhaul, and perhaps a more encouraging and fruitful way forward in research on complex problem solving, is to reconceptualise “finding solutions to complex problems” as instead “findings ways of reducing uncertainty”. This entails redefining the domain of “complex dynamic problem solving” into “decision making under uncertainty”. This enables a Bayesian approach to understanding what makes a situation controllable, or appear to be controllable to a problem solver, and hence what cognitive and psychological factors they bring to bear on the situation.


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