Problem-solving methods during the learning process

This week I spent time researching how problem-solving methods can be used in the learning process. I selected two papers on this topic that I would like to share with you.

Collaborative Learning in Problem Solving: A Case Study in Metacognitive Learning

I liked this paper because it focuses on an area that I have always been interested in as learner and Instructional Designer, collaboration learning. In my work as an ID I often use collaboration activities to reinforce learning.  I was curious to see how the conclusions reached in this particular case study.

Authors Wismath and Orr (2015) investigated the patterns of collaboration used by 133 college students as they were tasked with solving various puzzles in a class. The students were given permission to work independently and in groups, at their own discretions.  The study lasted four years during which the researchers observed these students solving puzzles in four different classes and collected quantitative data about the participants.

The researchers found that there was a specific pattern used by the students.  First, they observed the students using both patterns of problems solving (individual and group). In addition, they formed correlations between the patterns chosen by the students and their styles of learning as well as the kinds of problems being solved. Finally, they examined the manner in which these elements influence how problem-solving is taught. They concluded that the development of collaboration skills does facilitate problem solving.

This means that as instructional designers, we should attempt to help learners to learn how to develop a deeper understanding of the methods they use to solve problems. If we can help them to become more aware (through learning activities) of how they approach problem-solving and encourage them to collaborate to solve problems, we will definitely have an impact on their learning experience.

Perspectives on problem solving and instruction

The second paper that I read focuses on how problem solving is taught. This paper starts out by identifying the inconsistent approaches to teaching problem solving and how educators cannot seem to agree on one specific approach.

At the beginning of the paper Van Merrienboer (n.d.) notes in writing the paper, his purpose is to “sort out the different perspectives” and to focus on” problem solving as a goal, a method, and a skill”.  He goes on to suggest that when it comes to problem solving as a goal, the problems should involve real life issues. When it comes to problem solving as a method, he suggests that learners be provided with enough support to help them in the development of their problem solving skills. Finally, he proposes that problem solving skills should be developed by using  “repetitive practice” and “variability of practice”, which he details in a table titled the “Implications of System 1/System 2 models for learning real-life problem solving methods”.

Essentially, I think he is saying that problem solving skills may be developed by providing learners with scenarios or situations where they have to continuously use their problem solving skills. He is suggesting that the more learners practice these skills the better they will become at using them to solve problems.  Additionally, he is recommending that the practice of problem solving should allow learners to work towards solving different types of real problems in order to help them to broaden their understanding of how to solve problems on their own.

I really enjoyed reading these two papers and hope that you find my summaries interesting. Thank you for reading my post.


Van Merrienboer, J. (n.d). Perspectives on problem solving and instruction. Computers & Education, 64153-160.

Wismath, S. L., & Orr, D. (2015). Collaborative Learning in Problem Solving: A Case Study in Metacognitive Learning. Canadian Journal For The Scholarship Of Teaching And Learning, 6(3).


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