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Solving Problems Or Problem Solving What Are We Teaching Our Students?

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.885.1 - 6.885.8

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Terrence Freeman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session: 2650

Solving Problems or Problem Solving What Are We Teaching Our Students?

Terrence L. Freeman St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley

Abstract Beyond engineering and engineering technology, employers in all fields want employees who can think critically and solve problems. Faculty in problem-solving courses have undoubtedly responded to the question, “Will the test be like the homework?” This raises the question of whether or not the test should be like the homework, and if not, how close should it be. Are students modeling their approach to problem solving or are they developing deep level processing and strategic approaches? How does homework reinforce the skills that we want students to develop? How are the various problem-solving courses working together to reinforce approaches to problem solving? Why do students do well with the homework at the end of a chapter and struggle with a test over several chapters? Why do students hate word problems? Students are not only charged with the responsibility of getting correct answers, they must also realize that sometimes there is more than one correct answer. Students must look beyond checking the answer in a solutions manual to the day that they will become the solutions manual. This calls for students to develop competence and confidence in their competence. Are we leaving the synthesis of problem solving skills to the student or are there approaches that we can utilize to reinforce student skills? This presentation will explore the answers to the questions raised in the preceding paragraph. There will also be a discussion on how students can become strategic problem solvers. It will further explore how homework, tests, and collaborative learning contribute to this process. Topics include skills acquisition, problem recognition and definition, strategic problem solving, extended applications, effective homework strategies, speed drills, test-taking, and study groups.

Beyond Critical Thinking Most activities do not require creative thinking or application. Habit and routine are generally more than sufficient to accomplish day-to-day tasks and challenges. Too many people accept the notion that they are not creative, and that the best ideas belong to other people. Sometimes, creative thinking is equated with intelligence. Intelligence alone, however, does not assure good thinking. Intelligence may be more aptly associated with the capacity for creative thought rather than the extent to which that capacity is utilized. Knowledge may be the foundation of the creative thought process, but knowledge is not what makes a person creative. Critical thinking is emphasized frequently as a goal in education, but the ability to think critically is only one dimension of the creative thought process that students should develop. Thinking is more than an analytical exercise designed to produce a correct answer. It is not a random, undisciplined, serendipitous process that some genetically favored segment of the population enjoys while others are relegated to a mundane intellectual struggle. Creative thinking requires an attitude and an approach to manipulating knowledge and experience that facilitates the development of new

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Freeman, T. (2001, June), Solving Problems Or Problem Solving What Are We Teaching Our Students? Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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