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Child as a Problem Solver and a Scientific Investigator
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Child as a Problem Solver and a Scientific Investigator
CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND PEDAGOGY
CHILD AS A PROBLEM SOLVER AND A SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATOR
Problem solving is the foundation of a young child’s learning. It must be valued, promoted, provided for and sustained in the early childhood classroom. Opportunities for problem solving occur in the everyday context of a child’s life. By observing the child closely, teachers can use the child’s social, cognitive, movement and emotional experiences to facilitate problem solving and promote strategies useful in the lifelong process of learning.
Problem solving is thinking that is goal-directed. Almost all our day-to-day activities are directed towards a goal. Here, it is important to know that problems are not always in the form of obstacles or hurdles that one faces. It could be any simple activity that you perform to reach a defined goal, for example, preparing a quick snack for your friend who has just arrived at your place. In problem solving there is an initial state (ie the problem) and there is an end state (the goal). These two anchors are connected by means of several steps or mental operations. Following table would clarify our understanding of various steps through which one solves a problem.
Table: Mental Operations Involved in Solving a Problem
Let us look at the problem ofaplay in school on the occasion of Teachers’ Day. Problem organising the following sequence.
|Mental operation||Nature of problem|
|1. Identify the problem||A week is left for teachers’ day and you are given the task of organising a play.|
|2. Represent the problem||Organising a play would involve identification of an appropriate theme, screening of actors, actresses, arranging money, etc.|
|3. Plan the solution: Set sub-goals||Search and survey various available themes for a play, and consult teachers and friends who have the expertise. The play to be decided, based on such considerations as cost, duration suitability for the occasion, etc.|
|4. Evaluate all solutions (plays)||Collect all the information/stage rehearsal.|
|5. Select one solution and execute in||compare and verify the various options to get the best solution (the play)|
|6. Evaluate the outcome||If the play (solution) is appreciated, think about the steps you have followed for future reference for yourself as well as for your friends.|
|7. Rethink and redefine problems and solutions||After this special occasion you can still think about ways to plan a better play in future.|
Learning Through Problem Solving
By exploring social relationships, manipulating objects, and interacting with people, children are able to formulate ideas, try these ideas out, and accept or reject what they learn. Constructing knowledge by making mistakes is part of the natural process of problem solving. Through exploring then experimenting. trying out a hypothesis, and finally. solving problems, children make learning personal and meaningful. Piaget states that children understand only what they discover or invent themselves. It is this discovery within the problem solving process that is the vehicle for children’s learning. Children are encouraged to construct their own knowledge when the teacher plans for problem solving: bases the framework for leaming in problem solving and provides time, space, and materials,
Changing through problem solving is modelled by adults and facilitated by the teacher in the classroom environment. When teachers articulate problems they face and discuss solutions with children, children become more aware of the significance of the problem solving process. Being a problem solver is modelled by the teacher and emulated by the children. The teacher’s role is two-fold: first, to value the to value the process and be willing to trust the learner, and second, to establish and maintain a classroom environment that encourages problem solving. It is the attitude of the teacher that must change first in the problem-solving classroom. Values and goals must be clearly defined to include a child-centered curriculum, the development of communication skills, promotion of cooperative learning, and inclusion of diverse ideas.
The teacher must be willing to become a learner, too. By being curious, observing. listening, and questioning, the teacher shares and models the qualities that are valued and promoted by the problem-solving process.
Planning for Problem Solving
A curriculum that accommodates a variety of developmental levels as well as individual differences in young children sets the stage for problem solving. Choices, decision-making, and a curriculum framework that integrates learning, such as Kutz and Chard’s project method, are especially appropriate for young learners. The project approach facilitates cooperative learning and promotes diverse ideas. Donna Ogle’s K-W-L (what you KNOW, what you WANT to know, and what you have LEARNED) is another method of organizing work that promotes problem solving. Themes, units, webbing, and the KWL method are all ways of organizing curriculum that can support problem solving. Beginning with the needs and interests of the children, problem solving develops from meaningful experiences important to the children. The teacher-designed curriculum provides the classroom basis for these experiences
For example, a second grade investigation of waste materials from a classroom led one group of young children to explore the topic in an integrated way. Reading. writing, counting, measuring. interviews of community people, and science experiments were planned, initiated and reported. Solutions to many problems posed during the investigation were tried out and some were found to be successful. Through group work, individuals were able to participate and communicate as cognitive and social needs were met. Each child, at individual levels and in individual ways, was successful within the group experience. Problem solving empowers children
Providing for Problem Solving
Problem solving is a skill that can be learned and must be practiced. It is facilitated by a classroom schedule that provides for integrated learning in large blocks of time, space for ongoing group projects, and many open-ended materials. The teacher provides the time, space, and materials necessary for in-depth learning
1. Time: Teachers can provide for problem solving by enlarging blocks of learning time during the school day. Because making choices, discussing decisions, and evaluating mistakes takes time, large time blocks best suit the problem-solving process. It is important that children know They have time to identify and solve problems.
2. Space: Projects and group meetings may require an assessment of classroom space. Moving desks and tables together facilitates communication and cooperation in the classroom. Once the teacher has observed the patterns of traffic in the classroom, equipment can be moved or eliminated to promote problem solving
3. Materials: The open-ended materials that are needed for the construction and concrete solving of problems should be safe, durable, and varied. Well-marked storage units should be easily accessible to children, and materials should be available for ongoing exploration and manipulation. Access to a variety of materials encourages children to use materials in new and diverse ways, This freedom promotes problem solving.
The Problem-Solving Model
Individuals or groups can solve problems. Group problem solving is important to young children because many diverse ideas are generated. Both individual and group processes should be included in the early childhood classroom. Becoming skillful at problem solving is based on the understanding and use of sequenced steps. These steps are:
- Identifying the problem,
- Brainstorming a variety of solutions,
- Choosing one solution and trying it out, and 4. Evaluating what has happened.
Choosing Good Problems
Goffin provides teachers with guiding questions that will help them identify appropriate problems for young children. Some of these are:
- Is the problem meaningful and interesting? 2. Can the problem be solved at a variety of levels
- Must a new decision be made?
- Can the actions be evaluated?
Problem solving is a way to make sense of the environment and, in fact, control it. The process allows children in an increasingly diverse world to be active participants and to implement changes. By including problem solving in the carly childhood classroom, we cquip children with a life-long skill that is useful in all areas of learning.
Obstacles to Solving Problems
Two major obstacles to solving a problem are mental set and lack of motivation.
Mental set is a tendency of a person to solve problems by following already tried mental operations or steps. Prior success with a particular strategy would sometimes help in solving a new problem. However, This tendency also creates a mental rigidity that obstructs the problem solver to think of any new rules or strategies. Thus, while in some situations mental set can enhance the problem quality problem solving, in others You might and speed of situations it hinders have experienced this while solving mathematical problems. After completing a couple of questions, you form an idea of the steps required to solve these questions and subsequently you go on until following the same steps. point where you fail. At this point you may experience difficulty in avoiding the already used steps. Those steps would interfere in your thought for new strategies. However, in day-to-day activities we often rely on past experiences with similar or related problems.
Like the mental set, functional fixedness in problem solving occurs when people fail to solve a problem because they are fixed on a thing’s usual function. If you have ever used a hardbound book to hammer a nail, then you have overcome functional fixedness.
Lack of Motivation
People might be great at solving problems. but all their skills and talents are of no use if they are not motivated. Sometimes people give up easily when they encounter a problem or failure in implementing the first step. Therefore, there is a need to persist in their effort to find a solution.
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