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One of the greatest theoretical difficulties with the information processing approach is that it begs the very important question of what is an appropriate representation of the problem. Some of the research in the field of Artificial Intelligence has attempted to answer this by analysing the underlying structure of the problem, and looking at how this relates to the solution strategies students adopt. There custom coursework writing service is no suggestion that the student is aware of the underlying structure.
Yet research shows that the characteristics of solution protocols differ according to the structure of the problem (Luger, 1975), and so the problem-solving strategies students adopt are determined, in part, by the form of the problem. This is the very question that Gestalt theorists tackled: it is precisely the perception of the underlying structure of the problem that the information processing theorists need as their starting point. Similarly, the information processing account tackles the question of how you proceed through a problem, once you have had the insight, a question which the Gestalt theorists paid less attention to.
Thus these two very different theoretical frameworks have similar empirical procedures — in that both analyse approaches to problem- solving — and produce complementary findings. We might expect that we THE EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING could combine the two to give a complete picture of how students solve problems.
The question now is: how far does the theory apply to the practice of problem-solving in higher education? We are no longer concerned with the general processes of human psychology, but with the personal reality experienced by students as they learn.
A recent study on how students learn from problem-solving was carried out with a small group of 12 university students studying the second year of a combined science course (Laurillard, 1979a). The aim of the study was to custom coursework writing service investigate how students approach and carry out problem-solving tasks set as part of their coursework. The course chosen was a course on micro-electronics, and the study focused on three of the problems set.
Questionnaires were completed soon after the problem task had been finished so that students were able to remember what they did in some detail.
Several such heuristic devices were apparent, but they did not operate in quite the way we might have expected.
Data of this kind necessarily give us a different perspective on the process of learning. They cannot tell us what cognitive processes are involved and how they operate, but instead they can tell us, for example, how the student perceives the given problem-solving task.
Consider these quotes from students, explaining their initial approach to a problem which involved writing a device control program for a given micro- processor. The quotes record the important first step of making sure they understand the problem. I read through the question to see what was familiar from the lecture, i. I have to sort through the wording very slowly to understand what he wants us to do. I read through with reference to the class notes making sure I understand the sequence.
But what is common to all these students is the focus of their attention, not degree coursework on the problem itself, but on the problem as set by a teacher in the context of a particular course.
Each step, and each strategic decision made, refer to the immediate context of the problem as it occurs in that course.
For these students, the problem situation is quite different from those featured in experimental studies. It will also be marked by a particular lecturer, and the solution should take that into account as well. The final stage of any problem-solving process involves checking back and examining the solution. And again, some students evaluate their solution not within the terms of the problem alone, but in relation to other aspects of its context, such as their own level of commitment to the task. I felt it was something to copy down and nothing to understand really. So the problem-solving task may fail to ensure that the student learns about the subject matter. This will no doubt be of some value to them, but it will not satisfy the teacher who intends them to learn about microelectronics.
This is a serious difficulty in making sure that a problem-solving task evokes successful learning. We have seen that students pay considerable attention to peripheral aspects of the problem, but students do also have to consider the problem itself. In the next section, we custom coursework writing service consider alternative ways of approaching a problem-solving task and attempt to determine the origins and conse- quences of these. Each student was interviewed on at least three occasions about a coursework problem task they had been set. LEARNING FROM PROBLEM SOLVING 133 Stimulated recall — the students are interviewed about how they worked on the task in detail, using the problem statement and their written work to stimulate recall.
Questions on context — the students are interviewed about why they did what they did, relating this activity to other aspects of the learning context such as the relevant lecture, tutorial, assessment etc. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed by searching for descriptions of, for example, a deep or surface level approach, and their persuasive essay writing help interpreta- tions were then independently checked by two other judges. Such data are rich not only in confirmation of the existing descriptions of learning, but also in insights into how the students experience these particular learning tasks. It was also indicated there that these descriptions of the learning process do not apply only to reading.
The deep approach is active, with students looking for the meaning of what they are doing.
The following quotes are taken from interview protocols of students describing their approach to various coursework problems in science and engineering.
First I read the introduction to see what they had to say about it, why it gives a reasonable approximation and what it neglects, because you have to realize the limitations of the method.