טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentBe'eri Avital
SubjectLearning Processes in Solving Authentic Problems
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Miriam Reiner
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

Emerging theories about learning based on brain activity research suggest new insights into the connection between learning and the brain. Evolutionary Psychology suggests the human brain was designed by natural selection to solve authentic everyday problems that have personal meaning and a solution that can improve the solver's life, and learning occurs while coping with a problem. Therefore, the process of solving an authentic everyday problem can be regarded as a natural learning process. This research deals with the idea that learning in formal frameworks like schools should be guided by a natural learning process, and ill-defined everyday authentic problems are a powerful source for meaningful learning. 

We developed an approach based on projects of problem solving including a design process, encouraging learners to identify problems relating to their everyday experience, and set  these problems as a context for science learning. This learning environment was implemented in a junior-high school in the north of Israel, where  the current research was conducted.

The main goal of this study was to identify the outcomes of learning by studying the application of problem solving skills and scientific contents that can be retrieved by the learner three years later.

We used a mixed methods approach. Observations, interviews and open questionnaires were used for data collection. Interviews and questionnaires were developed as a one combined tool, to help participants create situated reflections on their learning three years ago. Qualitative content analysis   was supported by cluster analyzing.   The research population was two groups of 8th and 9th grade for the observations, and 70 students of 12th grade for the combined tool.

We discovered that each student retained a unique pattern in his/her memory in which cognitive processes leading the problem solver toward information search and contextualized learning were employed in an early stage of the problem solving process. Results also suggest that problem solving patterns became a tool of practice, embedded in science problem solving situations, and reflected in students strategies and knowledge three years after engaging in the authentic problem solving environment. 

We argue that our research findings support the idea that a learning environment based on authentic problem-solving provides students with an opportunity to construct their own inherent drive for learning and engage them in actual construction of  problem solving patterns. These patterns  become an inherent problem solving practice, as well as constructions for meaningful long term scientific knowledge.