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What makes the difference – PIAAC as a resource for understanding the problem-solving skills of Europe's higher-education adults

, University of Jyväskylä, Finland ; , Department of Educational Studies, Belgium ; , University of Jyväskylä, Finland ; , Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Computers & Education Volume 129, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


The ever-evolving technological landscape is challenging adults' problem-solving skills. The central goal of higher education (HE) is to guarantee a high level of know-how, which is in line with the changing demands of technology at work and in everyday life. This study builds on European data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to understand adults' (N = 53,407) skills for solving problems in technology-rich environments. The study provides insight into the socio-demographic, work-related, and everyday factors that are associated with a strong and a weak problem-solving performance. The results indicate that HE adults stand out from adults with other educational backgrounds. Having a higher education degree is related with strong problem-solving skills. Still, it is rather surprising that only 15% of HE adults are strong problem-solvers and that as many as 35% can be considered weak problem-solvers. Since this century requires citizens to possess more and more skills to resolve problems in technology-rich environments, this study identifies the indicators for problem-solving skills differences. Namely, this article presents the models that predict problem-solving performance on the basis of theoretical assumptions as well as empirical support. Our results indicate that HE adults' strong or weak performance seems to be associated with socio-demographic factors (especially age, gender, parental education, and native speaking skills), as well as work-related and everyday-life factors. The models presented in this study may be helpful when developing HE practices and new approaches to foster HE adults' problem-solving skills to meet the needs of technological advancement at work and in everyday life.


Hämäläinen, R., De Wever, B., Nissinen, K. & Cincinnato, S. (2019). What makes the difference – PIAAC as a resource for understanding the problem-solving skills of Europe's higher-education adults. Computers & Education, 129(1), 27-36. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved January 23, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Computers & Education on January 29, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

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