Learning is a problem-solving activity

Helen Askell-Williams

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This chapter provides a brief introduction to the broad underlying premise of this volume, namely, all learning activities require learners to be problem solvers. This is not problem solving in the typical subject-matter sense, such as in maths, solve for y: y + 6 = 10. Rather, while interacting with teachers, or studying alone, learners need to make decisions, that is – they need to solve problems – about selecting, applying, and monitoring useful motivational, cognitive, and metacognitive strategies to self-regulate their learning activities. Sometimes these problem-solving decisions are automated, tacit, and not very powerful, such as mindlessly selecting repetition as the best way to learn a vocabulary list. At other times, problem-solving decisions are effortful and creative, such as mindfully deciding to draw a concept map to elucidate the links between key ideas. Problem solving for learning matters because the quality of learners’ motivational, cognitive, and metacognitive decisions about how to approach a learning task affect the quality of their learning outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProblem Solving for Teaching and Learning
Subtitle of host publicationA Festschrift for Emeritus Professor Mike Lawson
EditorsHelen Askell-Williams, Janice Orrell
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780429684098
ISBN (Print)9780367001834
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


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