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Problem Solving


Problem Solving Dianne J. E. Kraus Wilkes University

Problem Solving

ABSTRACT The students in the mini-study for problem solving are a group of 31 male and female students of mixed diversity from Dundee Crown High School in Carpentersville, Illinois. AVIDs mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. Our student profile meets one of the following criteria: first to attend college, historically underserved in four-year colleges, low income, and special circumstances. In this mini-study the students are participating in problem-solving tutorials, which is a ten step process that actively involves students in the inquiry learning process to deepen understanding in tutorled collaborative groups. AVID students participate in the problem solving process at least twice each week.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving At the beginning of the school year the students, tutors and teacher for the AVID 10 Elective class met to learn and practice the ten steps of the tutorial process. The target learning goal for this lesson was that students will identify a problem that needs to be solved and will work in collaborative groups to identify the steps needed to solve the point of confusion that is an obstacle to understanding. The AVID teacher was to implement the process as a well established procedure within the classroom so that students/tutors could master the stages of the inquiry learning process. The teacher provided the students/tutors with instruction and they worked together to learn Costas levels of mental processing to ask higher-order questions and to build rapport between participants. The participants were then taught the ten steps of the tutorial process. The teacher put the students and tutors into groups with a 7:1 ratio so that the problem solving process could be modeled. The steps of the tutorial process: 1) take Cornell notes in academic classes, 2) complete pre-work inquiry (Appendix 2) while completing homework or studying for test to identify problem, to identify what you know and make a prediction for solution, and to determine the obstacle to your solving the problem (point of confusion), 3) turn in tutorial request form (Appendix 2) on Monday filled out with problem and point of confusion clearly completed with a prediction for a reasonable answer, 4) tutors divide students into groups according to content areas based on their points of confusion in 7:1 student/tutor ratio, 5) group members read their problem questions and a student presenter gives 30 second speech about pre-work on problem and their point of confusion. The tutor and group members ask (apply and evaluate) questions to

Problem Solving

guide the student presenter through the problem solving process to help student apply acquired knowledge and make connections to predict, judge, hypothesize, or evaluate content and all members take three-column notes during session, 6) group members/tutors check for understanding and the student presenter reviews the steps/process used to solve point of confusion, 7) Steps 5/6 are repeated for as many group members as time allows, 8) Students complete a higher order written reflection on the learning that occurred 9) students turn in their TRFs for grading and feedback, 10) Teacher debriefs tutors on the tutorial process and students verify their learning in their academic classes to support their original prediction or to validate a change in their thinking based on what they learned. The students are encouraged to teach what they know to other students in a different way. (Daws & Schiro, 2012) Once the class understood each of their roles in the tutorial/problem solving process the tutors were asked to participate in a mock tutorial to model the process for the students. The students and tutors were then ready to participate in twice-weekly tutorial sessions. With the process well-established in the classroom the teacher has slowly stepped back from the instructional role and is now responsible for monitoring the groups and coaching the groups. During the tutorial process the teacher conferences with individual students who require extra support, and also checks that students and tutors follow the problem solving process through observation and feedback. The tutor is responsible for facilitating the inquiry and collaboration process of the student groups. Each student is responsible for presenting an authentic question and group members help to find a solution to their individual problems in greater depth through the use of inquiry, collaborative discussion and by pushing the thinking of all group members using higher-level questioning strategies.

Problem Solving

The goal of the lesson was achieved during the study because all of the students were engaged in higher-order thinking and were participating in their roles of the problem solving process to solve the points of confusion for individual questions that were brought to class by the students from their core classes. The students were able to describe the importance of working in groups at the beginning of their tutorial when asked by their tutor and when asked they understood the importance of making a prediction on how to solve their problem based on prior knowledge and they also identified their points of confusion (POC) and steps for solving their POC. The students referenced their resources and their notes and asked higher order questions to guide the presenters. The presenter made use of a diagram on the board during her presentation and she was able to outline the important steps that she used to find the solution to her chemistry problem. Other groups were also engaged in the process to solve problems. Problem solving tasks are important for students to think more deeply about their content and make important connections to utilize and apply their knowledge to new situations or problems that are similar. They need to take ownership of their learning instead of being told the answer, they must identify what they do not understand, they must make sense of new information and clarify their own thoughts through collaboration in both speaking and writing. Problem solving adds rigor to the curriculum so that students engage in deeper thought about the content that they are learning. In our fifth year of implementing this process we are innovating in our execution within the AVID program but one area of growth is ensuring that students provide unique questions and fully complete the pre-work inquiry prior to class. We have started AVID U on Thursdays to offer an afterschool option for students to participate in the outlined tutorial/problem solving process so that students can engage further in collaborative problem solving if time is missed.

Problem Solving

Daws, T. & Schiro, P. (2012) AVID tutorial guide. San Diego, CA: AVID Press Marzano, R.J. (2007) The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA:ASCD

Problem Solving

APPENDIX 1 Score Rubric for Problem Solving 4.0 Students will reflect on their learning and apply the knowledge acquired to make connections, predictions, to judge, hypothesis or to evaluate content

3.5 3.0

In addition to score 3.0 performance partial success at score 4.0 content

Students will identify a problem that needs to be solved and will work in collaborative groups to identify the steps needed to solve the point of confusion that is an obstacle to understanding.

2.5 No major errors or omissions regarding score 2.0 content, and partial success at score 3.0 content 2.0 1.5 Students will make a drawing or diagram to illustrate the problem/solution Partial success at score 2.0 content but major errors or omissions regarding score 3.0 content With help, partial success at score 2.0 content and score 3.0 content With help partial success at score 2.0 content but not at score 3.0 content Even with help, no success

1.0 0.5 0.0

Problem Solving



Complete homework from academic classes Review class/text Cornell Notes Identify a problem that needs help solving Write initial question from notes Identify key vocabulary and write definition as it is associated with the problem Identify prior knowledge related to the problem What does it say in the text and in your notes about the problem Identify the steps needed to solve problem (what is the formula) Identify point of confusion (obstacle that is preventing you from solving the problem). Deliver 30 second speech presents pre-work to collaborative group Share what you know about problem Book from class Cornell notes from class Handouts from class Quizzes or tests that relate to the point of confusion (obstacle to solving problem) Does not give the presenter the answer Takes turns asking questions and engaging in inquiry-based conversation Participates by creating depth and asking higher-level questions Work together using questioning strategies Make deeper connections with the material presented Identify steps necessary to understand the point of confusion Help to clarify understanding of authentic questions Review steps or process used to solve problem If problem not solved then design question with group to take back to content teacher for additional support Student from another group may assist struggling group Student presenter records notes on board in 3 columns Group members take three column notes on what the presenter has written ! signifies point of confusion solved Highlight main ideas Circle vocabulary from pre-work used to solve problem Organize the information into charts/organizers/tables Make a diagram or drawing to illustrate the problem/solution Make notes of the relationship between concepts by annotating Cornell notes Student has written higher order reflection on their learning: How do you know the answer solution is correct How could you check your answer Is there more than one way to solve the problem Could there be other correct answers Can you make a model of a new way to share the information Is there a real life situation where this can be applied or used Can you explain this in a different way Could this method of solving this problem work for other questions? Apply the knowledge acquired to make connections, predictions, to judge, hypothesize or to evaluate Reflect on his/her learning based on another presenters point of confusion





Problem Solving
TUTORIAL REQUEST FORM Essential Question: Initial Question/Original Question: What is the problem? What is the question that I do not understand Name/Date Key vocabulary

What are the key academic vocabulary words I need to understand?

What do I know about my problem? Can I connect this to prior knowledge from this content area or another subject? Can I make a prediction about a reasonable answer? Critical thinking about initial question: Can I work backwards? How do I plan to approach this question and what strategies should I use? Have I done similar problems? Can I break the problem down into smaller parts? Is there a reliable website that can support my learning? Identify General Process and Steps: What are the steps to what I already know about this problem? What can I show that I can apply to a similar problem? Complete individual steps taken to clarify point of confusion and to solve problem.

Question from Point of Confusion Identify point of confusion (obstacle to solving this problem) and create a higher order question based on your point of confusion

Problem Solving
Take notes from inquiry completed in group. Tutor will take notes for student who is presenting problem. The tutor will circle where you are making an error in your thinking to solve this problem. Then as a group you will write a question from that point. Reflection The problem was My point of confusion (obstacle was) What I learned about my point of confusion is What was the source of error in your prediction that caused this point of confusion I gained a new/greater understanding of my point of confusion by/when How do you know that the solution to this problem is correct This learning is important because it connects to my previous learning/experience, myself and or my world in the following way Can you apply the knowledge acquired to make connections, predictions, to judge, hypothesize or to evaluate other similar problems Can you explain your solution to this problem in another way What I found meaningful about todays tutorial session is


Adapted from AVID Tutorial Request Form (2012)