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There is a growing need among disadvantaged students for schools to provide them with knowledge which they can use and which is valued in the labour market. This need has induced research worldwide, focusing on the quality and transferability of knowledge (e.g. Frensch and Funke, 1995; Haskell, 2001; OECD, 2004). This study presents a series of assessments, aiming to give an overview of the development of the problem solving skills of the participating disadvantaged students. The sample of the present study is a sub-sample of a 2004 study of 3rd to 8th grade students. The students who were in grade 5 in 2004 (N=998) were involved in the 2006 assessment (grade 7, N=937). The classes studied are characterised by higher than average ratios of students living under difficult socio-economic conditions and Roma students. The test featured problems centred around a family vacation (money exchange, shopping, etc.). Subjects in different assessments were not administered the same tests, but anchor items and statistical procedures associated with item response theory made the comparison of the results possible, and also their conversion to the same ability scale. During the two years between the two assessment points, significant development occurred in the subjects’ problem solving skills. However, those attending grade 7 in 2006 performed at a significantly lower ability level than their peers who were in grade 7 in the same schools in 2004. Regarding the class level analysis, the classes with the lowest average performances are below the grade 3 levels of classes with compatible social backgrounds, while those with the highest ability levels perform at the level of 8th graders. This difference suggests a developmental log of several years, tangible at the class level, and becoming even more pronounced at the individual level. The inability to use school learning in real life situations is only one of the reasons behind this phenomenon. The results suggest other relevant contributing factors, such as difficulties with identifying the problem to be solved and with gathering necessary and sufficient information, especially if this information is not presented in a compact form, but is given in several sources, perhaps even in different formats.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 107. Number 4. 277-293. (2007)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: SZTE Neveléstudományi Intézet, MTA-SZTE Képességkutató Csoport, H–6722 Szeged, Petőfi S. sgt. 30–34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia