Training Problem Solving Skills in Children: Two Approaches to Adult Intervention

Year: 1985

Author: Washbourne, Malcolm, Lawrence, Jeanette, Kurzeja, Danuta

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In two studies, children and adolescents were trained to use appropriate problem solving strategies by two different forms of adult intervention, and in two different contexts for specific skills, playing a board game, and a primary school library.

In the games study, 60 Year Two, Eight and Twelve students were trained to use a focussing strategy to solve concept attainment problems of Mastermind. The intervention based on Vygotsky's theory of proximal development used a graded induction to bring all subjects to criterial levels of performance. Year Two students were brought to the same level of play as older subjects, but were not able to transfer their induced strategy to a more difficult electronic version of the game.

In the library skills study, a class teacher induced cataloguing skills in Year Three students by modelling cognitive mediation of problem solving steps, and then by training children to mediate their own behaviours. Children's cognitive mediations were monitored by a system in which children reported steps they would use to accomplish the catalogue task.

The experimental group outperformed two control groups in their cognitive mediation and in their performance of tasks. They also performed better on a transfer task in which they constructed their own catalogue file.

Implications of the two interventions will be related to issues of tailoring strategy induction and adult mediation to specific tasks, and training for transfer and generalisable skills in children.