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Reflexibility in Problem Solving: The Social Context of Expertise. Report No. 13


A series of studies conducted to identify the factors that block and unblock problem solving is described. Through the construction of an isomorph of the classic “water jar” problems developed by A. S. Luchins (1942) as a dynamic graphic micro-world, several factors involved in producing blocked states were identified. Subjects included 10 individuals and 10 pairs of subjects. By comparing the behavior of individuals tackling the “missionaries and cannibals” problem to that of pairs of subjects solving this problem, a study identified means by which problem solvers operating in a social context are able to overcome blocks that discourage individuals. These studies point to the importance of “reflection” (evaluation of problem-solving results) for flexible problem solving. This research suggests that teaching students to analyze what they have done will help them develop flexibility in using a new approach when blocked. The results may also account for the difficulty in showing learning in “discovery learning” uses of computers, such as the use of LOGO, since such uses often do not encourage students to reflect on the outcome of their problem solving. (TJH)


Levin, J.A. Reflexibility in Problem Solving: The Social Context of Expertise. Report No. 13. Retrieved March 26, 2019 from .

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