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.



The development and assessment of problem solving in 21st-century schools

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

The skills considered most essential in our modern societies are often called 21stcentury skills. Problem solving is clearly one of them. Students will be expected to work in novel environments, face problems they have never seen and apply domain-general reasoning skills that are not tied to specific contents. Computerised dynamic problem solving can be used to create just such an interactive problem situation in order to assess these skills. It may therefore form the basis for a type of assessment which helps answer the question of how well schools are preparing their students for an unknown future. This chapter shows how education systems may benefit from such an assessment. It reviews educational methods that have aimed at developing students’ higher-order thinking skills and indicates how experiences with these approaches can be used to improve problem solving, from direct teaching, through content-based methods, to innovative classroom processes. It outlines the evolution of large-scale assessment programmes, shows how assessing problem solving adds value and, finally, identifies some directions for further research.


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