Chapter 4: Deconstructing the Problem-solving Process: Beneath Assigned Points and Beyond Traditional Assessment
Published:17 May 2021
O. Gulacar, C. Cox, and H. Fynewever, in Problems and Problem Solving in Chemistry Education: Analysing Data, Looking for Patterns and Making Deductions, ed. G. Tsaparlis, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2021, ch. 4, pp. 68-92.
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Part of what makes research in problem solving difficult is the multitude of ways in which students can be unsuccessful in solving problems. Research that combines qualitative and quantitative methods provides an in-depth understanding of students’ problem-solving strategies. Each step of a multi-step problem can be labelled as a subproblem and represents content that students need to understand and use to be successful with the problem. We have developed a set of codes to categorize each student's solution attempt for every subproblem as either successful or not, and if unsuccessful, identify why. This coding system can catalogue the frequency of different student missteps and provide a better understanding of common barriers to success, as we illustrate in the context of stoichiometry. Our analysis provides insights into how successful students differ from their unsuccessful counterparts beyond observable behaviours. Additionally, interesting correlations were determined between the codes assigned to students’ subproblems and the metacognitive categories identified with the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory. This chapter also describes the use of technological tools such as Gradescope to evaluate and interpret students’ problem-solving performances.