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The role of cognitive processes in complex problem solving

Dr. Beate Eichmann➚, Research associate DIPF

The PhD project focuses on the investigation of cognitive processes in complex problem solving (CPS) using process measures. Students’ behavior is analyzed using log data from PISA 2012. The PhD project started in the project " Prozessindikatoren: Von der Erklärung des Aufgabenerfolgs zum formativen Assessment – Profan " and was being completed at the Center for International Comparative Studies in Education. Three studies were carried out in this project.

Study 1: The role of planning in complex problem solving➚

In the first study, the relationship between different aspects of planning and CPS performance was investigated. The duration of planning, the timing of planning and the division of time during the problem-solving process were considered. The results showed that early planning is generally beneficial in CPS. However, the two other planning aspects showed task-related effects only. For easy tasks, an even division of time was advantageous, whereas for more difficult tasks, a division into longer and shorter planning intervals was advantageous. The effect of planning duration was also task-dependent, but showed only a weak correlation with task difficulty. Therefore, this relationship seems to be based on other task characteristics.

Study 2: Using process data to explain group differences in complex problem solving➚

In the second study, performance differences in CPS depending on students’ gender and migration background were investigated. As expected, performance differences in CPS occurred in favor of boys over girls and in favor of students without a migration background over students with a migration background. It was examined whether the performance differences between these groups can be explained by the process measures frequency of interaction and exploration. It was found that both process measures were positively related to CPS performance. Furthermore, the higher performance of boys compared to girls could be partially explained by the interaction frequency and fully explained by the exploration frequency. In contrast, the difference in performance depending on the migration background could not be explained by either of the two process measures.

Study 3: Exploring behavioural patterns during complex problem solving➚

The third study aimed to clarify the role of exploration behaviour in CPS. In addition, complex behavioral patterns and their relationship to performance in CPS were investigated. For this purpose, students’ exploration behavior was divided into solution-relevant and solution-independent exploration. Contrary to the results of the second study, it could be shown that solution-independent exploration occurred more often when tasks were not successfully completed. Thus, only solution-relevant exploration seems to contribute to a higher CPS performance. In addition, different behavioral patterns were identified, which pointed to different strengths and weaknesses of students in CPS.

Reference: Eichmann, B. (2020). Die Rolle kognitiver Prozesse beim komplexen Problemlösen [Goethe Universität Frankfurt]. http://publikationen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/frontdoor/index/index/docId/56112➚

Doctoral SupervisorProf. Dr. Frank Goldhammer➚



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