Right after my opening keynote at the International Conference on ICT in Teaching and Learning in Hong Kong, David Jonassen presented via a canned video and a live video chat Q&A afterward. David’s presentation on his long term work on problem-solving dove-tailed nicely with mine, as I talked about how to design learning experiences around meaningful decisions, and he talked about different categories of those meaningful decisions. (On a personal note, I was thrilled to hear he was going to use my book in a class of his!)
He started with the claim that we need meaningful education, and that problem-solving was a core skill going forward, a theme I too support. He argued that we also needed to recognize that the types of problems we teach learners to solve in school bear little resemblance to the types of problems our learners face outside of schoo, and that we needed to change the types of problems we introduce learners to. An astute observation!
He made off-hand comments that I suspect not all the audience picked up: the importance of addressing new concepts and problems qualitatively before addressing them quantitatively (contrary to much done in schools), quoting (I *think* it was Gardner) that theories have no meaning until they’re applied, and that our learners were coming to us too spoon-fed with overly simplistic problems and consequently that it was hard to develop richer abilities to flexibly apply schemas (nor, I might add, with mindsets about persistence and willingness to fail).
He also talked about how while he supported problem-based learning,
I’ve taken to given challenging problems as group assignments in my classes when I teach, having them wrestle with some ambuigity as part of developing a decontextualized approach to applying the concepts to the outside world. The problems are simplified to unrealistically focus on particular aspects, but are otherwise framed as Requests For Proposals or grant opportunities that they might really face. They sometimes complain, but I do think at the end of the experience they’re better equipped to solve the problems we want graduates to be able to solve. It’s nice to be able to blame David!