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Gyöngyvér Molnár: Problem solving in Real-life situations

The present paper reports an empirical survey designed to map the applicability of students' school knowledge by testing problem solving skills in real life situations. Four aspects of the test are discussed: presentation, context, content and performance expectations. The results reveal how students can apply their school knowledge in novel problems modelling real-life problems. The findings provide a basis for a better assessment and monitoring of the effectiveness of education systems. The survey aimed to develop instruments that can be used to assess how students apply their knowledge acquired at school to solve problems in real life contexts. The subjects of the study were 14 and 17-year-old students (n=221 and 350, respectively) from Hungarian primary and secondary schools. The instrument of the study is a pencil and paper test. All tasks were embedded in one single realistic situation, i.e. building a house. The results support the crucial role of context and surface structure in problem solving as well as in the transfer of knowledge. The 17-year-old age group is polarised by the distribution of their total scores. There are no significant differences between the achievement scores of girls and boys. The results suggest that, as regards the developmental level of a student's problem solving ability, conclusions can be drawn from their attitude to school, their grades or their parents' level of education. The instrument developed allows us to evaluate not only those competencies which can be acquired at school, but some general skills as well which are indispensable in general problem solving (e.g.: text comprehension, collecting and combining information received from different sources, critical evaluation of information and transforming information between forms of presentation).

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 101. Number 3. 347-372. (2001)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Molnár Gyöngyvér, Szegedi Tudomány­egye­tem Pedagógiai Tanszék, H-6722 Szeged, Petőfi S. sgt. 30-34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia