A Review of a Scholarly Article on Problem Solving (Post 5)

I reviewed the article entitled “Toward a Design Theory of Problem Solving for the purpose of assessing the value of the information as it relates to how the brain processes learning. This article is valuable in that it focuses on problem solving. Problem solving presents a valuable mental activity that engages learners in the activity of mental processing. In order to problem solve, learners must be attentive, focused, and driven to solve the problem at hand.

The instructional designer Cathy Moore has turned me on to the concept of learning by evoking a meaningful experience for the learner instead of learning to receive information (an information dump – as Moore has termed it) (Moore, 2015). Therefore, problem solving strikes me as providing a catalyst to spark a meaningful experience, for it requires the brain to be active and do something.

This article, “Toward a Design Theory of Problem Solving” states that “Problem solving is generally regarded as the most important cognitive activity in everyday and professional contexts… However, learning to solve problems is too seldom required in formal educational settings, in part, because our understanding of its processes is limited” (Jonassen, 2000 , para 1). Here Jonassen recognizes the high volume of problem solving usage that occurs daily for human beings, and he reveals that there is little known as to how the brain problem solves. The act of critical thinking comes to mind. I know I have experienced problem solving by means of critical thinking questions at the end of a literature analysis during my undergraduate experience as an English major. Yet, I do not remember addressing how I problem solve, nor the steps I took to problem solve. I just remember doing it.

Jonassen (2000) states that the purpose of his paper was to propose a metatheory to problem solving that invokes discussion and more research. I am so interested in learning about this. Yet, through several attempts I have only been able to access the abstract of this article as well as an excerpt. I am unable to attain the full document. The article is in a journal entitled: Educational Technology Research and Development, and it addresses a readership of instructional designers, yet it costs $43.95 to download. Wow! This is a bit of a deal breaker for me. This is my first time in coming across a scholarly article on-line that looks credible according to my assessment and costs a considerable amount to access. Well, just being exposed to the thesis, purpose, and first page of this article has furthered my learning in that I have learned:

Problem solving seems to be a topic that is in need of further exploration and research. According to Jonassen (2000), problem solving seems to be lacking within current learning platforms. This makes me want to research problem solving further and find out why it is so mysterious. I would like to know how our brains problem solve. Our textbook mentions problem solving under the heading entitled “Self-Regulation and Motivation” Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) state that “The basic (superordinate) unit of self-regulation may be a problem-solving production system, in which the problem is to reach the goal and the monitoring serves to ascertain whether the learner is making progress” (p.131). Even though I am not yet learning about self-regulation, I see how the act of aiming to reach a goal (solve the problem at hand) and monitor if progress is being made via metacognition is applicable to designing meaningful experiences for learners to interact with.

Learners are traditionally required to learn information and attain it. In its most simple form, problem solving requires a goal and an outcome. I see its usefulness in learning. In addition, I see how the famous instructional designer Cathy Moore uses problems the scenarios she creates in her action mapping technique (Moore, 2015). Also, I see how problems are an important part to the schema of a narrative in that if there is not a problem, there often is not a story. Cron (2012) discusses in her book entitled Wired for Story that Neuroscience has indicated that the human brain is set up to respond to narratives, that it is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it” (para 3). Therefore, I see problem solving as part of a narrative, and I see the narrative as a way to engage learner’s attention and a way for learners to encode meaning, specifically, as a means of learning new content and material within a recognizable narrative schema that learners already know well (the narrative formula and format).

Problem solving does seem to be a topic I will be: researching further and incorporating within the instructional design platforms I create. Therefore, I thank you Jonassen for allowing me a glimpse to your progressive insights on the topic of problem solving. In the future, I hope to add to the discussion you have sparked.


Cron, L., (2012). Wired for story. Berkeley, California. [Nook for Web]. Retrieved from https://nook.barnesandnoble.com/products/9781607742463/sample?sourceEan=9781607742456

Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Toward a design theory of problem solving. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(4), 63-85. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30220285?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Moore, C. (2015). Let’s save the world from boring training! [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://blog.cathy-moore.com/site-contents/

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

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