The Architecture of Digital Problem Solving Approaches

In our previous post we talked about the interactive role of strategies, approaches, and purpose in digital problem solving.  This week, we delve a little more deeply into what we see as the architecture of approaches.  Our next post will explore the architecture of strategies.

How individuals use different strategies is affected by how they approaches digital problem solving and the contextual factors within the digital problem solving task.  Each problem solver, whether they have a wide range of experiences or a limited range of experience, will approach a problem differently and enact a strategy differently depending on context and experience.  It is important to understand that the data show there is no one “right” way to digital problem solve. Instead, problem solvers draw on a range of experiences across contexts and at times an approach or strategy may help a problem solver achieve a goal and at other times the continued use of that approach and strategy might not be helpful.

There are four important aspects to how an individual approaches digital problem solving:  

Systematicity: Moving through the task one step at a time. The more experienced individual may first take the time to read through and understand the task, explore the interface and resources, and check progress against the criteria. Less experienced problem solvers tended to approach problem solving more “randomly.”

Flexibility:  Switching strategies when what is being used doesn’t work.  The more experienced problem solver tends to think creatively and develops workarounds when what they are doing isn’t working as expected.  The less experienced problem solver tends to stick with what they know.

Persistence: There are two sides to persistence.  The first is repeating the same thing over and over again even when frustrated.  The second is refusing to give up and coming up with alternative approaches rather than becoming frustrated. 

Good Enough:  Determining that the outcome of the problem solving process is sufficient given the individual’s motivation, affect, prior knowledge, and context/purpose of the task. The good enough approach can involve doing the minimum and can give an incomplete result to the task.  Other times, however, the good enough approach can allow the problem solver to meet their goal within the constraints of the problem solving context.

For more illustrative examples of these strategies, read our complete report on PDX Scholar.  If you see different approaches in your work with adult learners, please post your insights in the comments!

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