Academic journal article College Student Journal

Problem Solving Ability Confidence Levels among Student Teachers after a Semester in the Classroom

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Problem Solving Ability Confidence Levels among Student Teachers after a Semester in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

Subjective confidence for solving classroom problems while instructing students in appropriate academic material is crucial for effective teaching. One way to develop problem solving confidence may result from the semester most education majors spend in the classroom as student teachers. The problem solving inventory (PSI) was given to university education majors in a pretest-posttest format where they responded before and after the completion of student teaching. Analyses indicated the student teachers thought they had more confidence for problem solving during the posttest condition as indicated by significance on the PSI's subscales. The semester spent in the classroom as a student teacher plays an essential role in the development of the necessary subjective confidence for solving classroom problems.

Key Words: Problem Solving, Confidence, Student Teaching

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During recent years, the technology and tools available to the modern teacher has grown considerably. One may argue, however, there is no technological substitute for the one tool considered the most important for conveying material to the student while managing the classroom, problem solving and the level of subjective confidence it mandates. Although many in the field of education can agree that good problem solving ability and confidence among teachers is critical, several questions remain such as how these skills develop, what are the contributory environmental conditions, and is it possible for teachers to learn problem solving and confidence through university education programs?

Simply put, in an educational setting, problem solving is selecting the most efficient method to satisfy learning goals by overcoming classroom obstacles. Problem solving is considered a learned skill and possessed in varying amounts across all types of teachers (Izgar, 2008). Normally, teachers with good problem solving skills have strong student performance levels (Otacioglu, 2008).

The research literature regarding problem solving, including inside the classroom, is extensive (for review, see Heppner, Witty, & Dixon, 2004), but it emphasizes teaching mathematics and integrating technology into the classroom. Several areas at this point in the research literature, however, remain unclear. For example, Otacioglu (2008) noted better problem solving abilities among the male than female teachers in his study, but other studies have not detected significant gender differences (Elliott, Herrick, Elliott, & Shrout, 1995; Izgar, 2008). Another underrepresented area in the literature is the importance of the teacher's classroom setting and level of expertise when researching problem solving ability. Here, problem solving ability has been shown to be better among private high school teachers when compared to their public school counterparts (Guclu, 2003). Izgar (2008) also discussed differences in problem solving abilities among those teachers in vocational school settings who perform better than primary and high school level teachers. There, however, is little demonstration regarding the problem solving abilities of student teachers who are in the midst of completing university level educational degree programs. How effective and confident are they with problem solving?

While it is appropriate to argue that good problem solving skills among teachers is indeed a critical prerequisite for student success, we were left wondering how these skills originate or one goes about acquiring them. Can problem solving be learned and mastered in the classroom or should prospective teachers, first, be exposed to the classroom on a trial basis under the watchful eyes of mentor teachers, often referred to as student teaching? Furthermore, there is mention in the research literature of a teacher's level of subjective confidence as a likely contributor to his or her problem solving abilities, but few, if any, studies have investigated this possible link, more less the development and measurement of problem solving skills and subjective confidence levels among student teachers. …

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