The effects of problem solving on junior high school students' ability to apply and analyze earth science subject matter



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Prominent among the goals stated for education is the improvement of students' ability to think. This goal is emphasized in guidelines developed at the national, state, district and school building levels. It has also been identified as an important educational outcome in surveys conducted with educators to determine the essential products of school learning. A problem with this goal is the lack of concensus in its definition and a label. There are numerous names in the literature that are given to describe students' ability to think. Among the names that frequently appear are productive thinking, analytic thinking, critical thinking, reflective thinking and problem solving. The latter name, problem solving, was selected to represent the thinking process that should be used to improve students' reasoning and achievement in science. A model of problem solving was synthesized from the literature. This model defines problem solving as a three step procedure to include problem identification, inquiry to determine relevant information, and the discovery of a relationship. The three step model of problem solving has many similarities to the application level learning described in Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Purpose. The purpose of this study was to improve eighth graders' ability to apply and analyze earth science subject matter through a problem solving approach to instruction. This approach included problem solving activities and teacher directed questions at the application and analysis levels. Population and Procedure. The population for the study consisted of eighth grade earth science students attending a suburban middle school in the Southwest. Fourteen sections (n = 287) were randomly assigned to seven experimental and seven control groups. The control groups received a traditional textbook oriented form of instruction which included reading, discussion and laboratory activities. The experimental groups received a problem solving form of instruction which included reading, problem solving tasks, discussion and laboratory exercises emphasizing application and analysis levels. The instruction lasted six weeks. A 4O-item achievement test was administered to determine the effects of the treatment. The test consisted of ten items constructed at the knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis levels. The test reliability was determined to be .789. The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal was administered before the treatment and used as a covariate measure to statistically equate the groups. [...]