Sunday, 10 July 2016

Towards a unified theory of problem solving

I have just read the short book: Towards a unified theory of problem solving, which is edited by Mike Smith. The book contained a set of chapters about teaching problem solving in diffferent subjects, such as:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Programming
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Trouble shooting (finding problems in machines).
I teach physics and mathematics, this involves trying to get the students to solve problems.
The aim of the book was to see if there were generic methods of solving problems, which are useful for all subjects.  In the end I didn't see any conclusion that there was a universal method of solving problems in any domain.

There was much discussion about the differences between the problem solving skills of experts and novices. Also there was issues about much information the students needed before they started trying to solve problems. Experts would experiment a bit more before they started to calculate. At the end of the solution of the problem, experts would think about better ways of solving the problems.

The way that TAs explained solutions to problems didn't help students to learn better problem solving techniques.