June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.1064.1 - 13.1064.18
Scaffolding to Improve Reasoning Skills in Problem Formulation Abstract Educators in engineering and science disciplines are well aware of student difficulties in formulating problems. Correct problem formulation is a critical phase in the problem solving process because the solution follows directly from the formulation. Students in this phase are engaged in reasoning and argumentation activities that result in support for a specific formulation. Empirical evidence from our work in ill-structured STEM problem solving indicate that more research is needed to understand the nature of problem formulation and what the cognitive challenges are for STEM students. Students work in teams to solve ill structured problems in the Problem Solving Learning Portal (PSLP). In this study we examine the use of scaffolding in the problem formulation stage in the context of an Engineering Economy course having students from multiple engineering disciplines.
Correct problem formulation is critical at the onset of problem solving because the solution process follows directly from the formulation.1 The ability to recognize a problem type is considered to be an essential cognitive skill in problem solving.2 This recognition of the nature of a problem is an important step within problem formulation and adds some immediate structure to the problem that can evolve during problem solving. Problem formulation could be instantaneous for simple problems, or may require some investigation, analysis, evaluation, and iterative development. French et al. suggested that problem formulation is iterative in nature and recommended that students should revisit individual steps in the formulation until they converge on an acceptable formulation.3
In Jonassen’s model for solving ill structured problems, problem formulation includes an articulation of the problem space and constraints along with identifying different perspectives on the problem.4 These types of activities add structure to the problem and lay the foundation for the necessary operations that will lead to a solution. The formulation includes some reasoning or argument that supports the formulation. Having the associated domain knowledge is critical in the problem formulation phase, making problem formulation challenging for novices who typically lack sufficient domain knowledge to recognize whether their initial conceptualization of the problem includes the essential elements—or if their initial solution strategy is reasonable.5 . Murphy studied the nature of messages in a collaborative problem solving environment based on team members participating in online asynchronous discussions. It was found that the majority of messages were related to resolving or solving the problem as compared to problem formulation.6 This may indicate that students tend to move to the solution process prematurely. A similar phenomenon was observed by Kelsey, who found that discussions about problems focused primarily on finding the solution as opposed to problem formulation.7 Volkema observed that problem formulation occurs early in planning and design activities (core activities in engineering).8 He suggested that factors contributing to poor problem solving performance include problem complexity, expertise, problem solving environment, and processes used by the problem solver to formulate the problem.
Jackman, J., & Ryan, S., & Ogilvie, C., & Niederhauser, D. (2008, June), Scaffolding To Improve Reasoning Skills In Problem Formulation Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3994
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