Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Five-Phase Learning Cycle Approach to Improving the Web-Based Problem-Solving Performance of Students

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Five-Phase Learning Cycle Approach to Improving the Web-Based Problem-Solving Performance of Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

High-order thinking abilities are viewed as an important competence in education nowadays. Among these abilities, problem solving ability has long been an objective of education. In the past decades, diverse definitions or conceptions of problem solving have been proposed by researchers and educators. A well-recognized definition is the process of solving problems via understanding them, then devising, carrying out and evaluating plans to solve them (Gagne, 1985; Polya, 1981). For example, Sternberg (1988) indicated that problem-solving ability should encompass six skills: (1) identifying the nature of the problem; (2) choosing problem-solving steps; (3) choosing problem-solving strategies; (4) choosing appropriate information; (5) allocating proper resources; and (6) monitoring the problem-solving process. ITEA (2000) defined problem solving as the process of clarifying a problem, making a plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the result in order to solve the problem to meet a human need or want. Some researchers have emphasized that "creativity" is one of the critical keys to solving problems (Hwang et al., 2007; Higgins, 1994). Some have further indicated that problem solving is a complex thinking procedure which should include the processes of critical thinking, creative thinking and reasoning, as shown in Figure 1 (Higgins, 1994; Hwang, Chen, Dung, & Yang, 2007).

Previous studies have revealed several factors that might affect students' problem-solving abilities, such as intelligence quality, learning materials, learning methods, problem-solving instruction strategies, and parents' socioeconomic background (Oloruntegbe, Ikpe, & Kukuru, 2010). Among these factors, learning methods and problem-solving instruction strategies are both considered as key factors that influence students' problem-solving abilities; consequently, many studies related to these issues have been conducted in recent years (Hwang & Kuo, 2011; Kuo, Hwang, & Lee, 2012; Tsai & Shen, 2009). In addition, researchers have reported correlations among information-searching skills, cognitive structure and problem-solving abilities (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1990). Bilal (2002) has further indicated that the lack of effective information-searching strategies and high-order thinking abilities could influence students' performance in searching for information on the Internet. However, most previous research concerning students' information-searching and problem-solving abilities has mainly focused on the difficulties students encounter in their web searching, while failing to provide prescription strategies for the improvement of information-searching and problem-solving abilities, including selecting, abstracting and organizing the searched data (Lee, 2012; Laxman, 2010; Walraven, Brand-Gruwel, & Boshuiaen, 2009). Therefore, an important educational issue emerges regarding how to guide individuals to construct their own knowledge via the process of collecting data, and analyzing and integrating information on the Internet autonomously. Hwang and Kuo (2011) further called such learning activities that engage students in comprehending a series of questions related to a specific issue, and seeking, selecting, abstracting, and summarizing information on the Web to answer the questions, "web-based problem solving." They indicated that with proper design of the target issue and the related questions, the students could be benefited by linking the knowledge learned from textbooks to real-world contexts.

Consequently, this study proposes a five-phase learning cycle approach to help students foster the abilities required to deal with web-based problem-solving activities. To test the influence of the proposed learning approach, a single- group pretest-posttest design was employed in the study. Such a single-group research design has been employed by many previous studies in investigating the effects of learning approaches and strategies (Liao, 2007; Sak & Oz, 2010; Sipe & Curlette, 1996; Yang, 2007). …

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