Trust The Children

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teaching Kids a Problem Solving Process

One of the major complaints I have with a lot of education is it's focus on content. A teacher shares knowledge about some topic, and tests for recall of that knowledge. Traditional instruction calls this process learning. Even formulae in math are often applied without a background understanding of how they came to be in the first place. The problem with this idea for me is that you can never learn enough content to solve all the problems you are facing. Let's say you get taught biology and then call yourself "educated". You mastered the content, passed the tests and call it good.

Well you go out into the world, and encounter a novel problem. Low and behold, the problem is an anthropology problem. So you are hosed. You go back to school, master anthropology and figure you are finally "educated". However when you go back out into the real world, you encounter an unexpected problem and the problem is related to history, of which you have little or no content in your brain. So you go back to school and learn history, only to go out into the real world, only to find a psychology problem. And so it goes. You can never learn enough content, you can never put enough content into your head to solve all the varied problems life is going to present to you.

Actually it's even worse than that. What could be worse? You can't go to public gatherings and discuss things half way intelligently, because someone is always talking about something you didn't study. So no polite discussion, you become a social outcast, and spend the rest of your life as a hermit or hermitess.

What is missing is that content is NOT king. It is important, but without a process, or a framework or a method of attacking problems for which you don't already have the answer for in your brain, you are in trouble.

There are many processes or problem solving frameworks that help our kids get to a solution, when at first they don't have content knowledge. When I give models for problem solving to my children in addition to content, I teach them HOW to fish instead of giving them a fish. I encourage them to feel the success of learning on their own, and becoming independent of me.

So here is the problem solving process in this article mentioned in the previous post: (this article is about Problem Based Learning in a Medical School Environment)

The Educational Goals for the Learners

The facilitator’s (home school parent's) overall educational goals for the students were for them to be able to
(1) explain disease processes responsible for a patient’s symptoms and signs and describe what interventions can be undertaken,
(2) employ an effective reasoning process,
(3) be aware of knowledge limitations,
(4) meet knowledge needs through self-directed learning and social knowledge construction, and 5) evaluate their learning and performance.

So if these are the goals for the learners, what were the goals that the "teacher/parent" needed to keep in mind for their performance?

The facilitator’s (parent's) performance goals were to
(1) keep all students active in the learning process,
(2) keep the learning process on track,
(3) make the students’ thoughts and their depth of understanding apparent, and
(4) encourage students to become self-reliant for direction and information.

Isn't this cool? It is to me.

To paraphrase, for my kids at home:

1) Help them identify the real problem
2) Help them think through what steps the need to take to get to the solution
3) What do they already know about the problem?
4) Where do they need to go to get more information?
5) Review with them after they have come up with their best solution the process they went though and the results it led them too, in order to reinforce the success they just had.

Doing this, enables our children to carry this sign on their chest... CAPABLE.


Post a Comment

<< Home