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Understanding Undergraduates’ Problem-Solving Processes

    Author: Ross H. Nehm1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: School of Teaching and Learning, and Dept. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 20 December 2010
    • This material is based in part upon research supported by the National Science Foundation under REESE grant number 0909999 (Nehm, P.I.). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the NSF.
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: School of Teaching and Learning, and Dept. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, 1945 N. High Street, 333 Arps Hall, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Phone: (614) 688-5373. Fax: (614) 755-4241. E-mail: [email protected].
    • Copyright © 2010 American Society for Microbiology
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2010 vol. 11 no. 2 119-122. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v11i2.203
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    Abstract:

    Fostering effective problem-solving skills is one of the most longstanding and widely agreed upon goals of biology education. Nevertheless, undergraduate biology educators have yet to leverage many major findings about problem-solving processes from the educational and cognitive science research literatures. This article highlights key facets of problem-solving processes and introduces methodologies that may be used to reveal how undergraduate students perceive and represent biological problems. Overall, successful problem-solving entails a keen sensitivity to problem contexts, disciplined internal representation or modeling of the problem, and the principled management and deployment of cognitive resources. Context recognition tasks, problem representation practice, and cognitive resource management receive remarkably little emphasis in the biology curriculum, despite their central roles in problem-solving success.

Key Concept Ranking

Natural Selection
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Elements
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References & Citations

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10. National Research Council Committee on a New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution 2009 A new biology for the 21st century National Academy Press Washington, D.C.
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14. Nehm RH, Schonfeld IS 2008 Measuring knowledge of natural selection: a comparison of the CINS, an open-response instrument, and an oral interview J Res Sci Teaching 45 1131 1160 10.1002/tea.20251 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.20251
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v11i2.203
2010-12-20
2019-08-19

Abstract:

Fostering effective problem-solving skills is one of the most longstanding and widely agreed upon goals of biology education. Nevertheless, undergraduate biology educators have yet to leverage many major findings about problem-solving processes from the educational and cognitive science research literatures. This article highlights key facets of problem-solving processes and introduces methodologies that may be used to reveal how undergraduate students perceive and represent biological problems. Overall, successful problem-solving entails a keen sensitivity to problem contexts, disciplined internal representation or modeling of the problem, and the principled management and deployment of cognitive resources. Context recognition tasks, problem representation practice, and cognitive resource management receive remarkably little emphasis in the biology curriculum, despite their central roles in problem-solving success.

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FIGURE 1

A magnet metaphor for problem-solving. In novices, many cognitive resources are highly attracted to problems. Such knowledge is often poorly organized and sensitized, leading to working memory overload. In experts, much naive knowledge has been appropriately sensitized to context (demagnetized) so that it is not attracted to problems but may be used in other contexts.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2010 vol. 11 no. 2 119-122. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v11i2.203
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