Problem solving in teacher education February 12, 2013Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Teacher and Adult Education.
Tags: problem solving, teacher education
from Dr Chwee Beng Lee
Teachers, do you have to take academic tests on a daily basis? How many of you write essays about the national curriculum and learning theories at your workplace? Are you expected to pass a particular test in order to keep your job?
In actual fact, no teacher is paid to complete examinations. On the other hand, teachers are expected to answer students’ queries on domain-specific questions, are challenged to solve classroom management problems, tasked to re-design lesson plans and curricula, and are required to communicate with various stakeholders. A plethora of studies has documented the increasing demands on beginning teachers as they face greater social expectations, the need to adapt to changes in curricula and pedagogies, and the pressure to develop technological competence and deal with greater diversity among students (Maidtre & Pare, 2010). Despite this reality, teacher education programs continue to place strong emphasis on examinations and essay writing that have little connection to teachers’ everyday experiences.
Problem solving as the most important cognitive process in our everyday life should be given great emphasis in education, especially in teacher education. If teachers do not possess the capacity to solve everyday problems, how can we assume that they are able to effectively and efficiently guide our school children to become problem solvers? Can teachers help students to transfer textbook knowledge into everyday problem solving?
The kinds of problems pre-service teachers face during their professional experience are mostly ill-structured problems that they encounter in their everyday work and are thus highly emergent, complex and interdisciplinary in nature (Jonassen, 2011). Dealing with such problems requires cognitive skills that may be relatively different from those that are required to solve well-structured problems (e.g. solving a mathematics problem versus solving a disciplinary problem). In addition, there are intervening conditions such as epistemological beliefs (Lee, 2010) in the process of solving such problems. There have been studies that have attempted to examine the problems confronted by beginning teachers in classrooms, or by pre-service teachers undertaking their professional experience, which focus on presenting the wide variety of problems (Buitink, 2009; Scherff & Singer, 2012; Zehava & Iliyan, 2008). However, there has been little effort to further examine the problem solving processes for different kinds of problems. To successfully integrate problem solving into teacher education programs, it is vital to first seek to categorize these problems and determine the cognitive skills and conditions needed to effectively solve them. Making a decision to inform parents about their child’s behaviour in the classroom and implementing appropriate teaching strategies require different thought processes and judgment. Necessary scaffoldings must be carefully designed and provided for constructivist learning. To provide pre-service teachers with authentic experience, real-world problems that resemble those that they will likely have to solve in schools could be presented in digital case format and integrated seamlessly across the teacher education curriculum. At the end of the day, it is most critical to prepare pre-service teachers for the real world challenges and teacher education programs must seek to design meaningful learning experiences that could enable pre-service teachers to apply the skills and knowledge they will learn from the teacher preparation courses in their future teaching.
Buitink, J. (2009). What and how do student teachers learning during school-based teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education ,25, 118-127.
Jonassen, D. H. (2011). Learning to solve problems: A handbook for designing problem solving learning environments. NY: Routledge.
Lee, C. B. (2010). The interactions between problem solving and conceptual change: System dynamic modelling as a platform for learning. Computers and Education. 55(3), 1145-1158.
Scherff, L., & Singer, N. R. (2012). The preservice teachers are watching: Framing and reframing the field experience. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28, 262-272.
Zehava, T., & Iliyan, S. (2008). The problems of the beginning teachers in the Arab schools in Israel. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 1041-1056.