A study of approaches to solving open-ended problems in chemistry
This paper describes the outcomes of a qualitative investigation into the range of different approaches that students use to solve open-ended, context rich problems. The study involved a small cohort of students individually solving open-ended, context-rich problems using a think aloud protocol. The problems required the students to develop a strategy, to identify data required and to make estimations. The problems did not lead to a single correct answer but rather a range of acceptable answers. Analysis of the transcripts and recordings of the sessions resulted in a limited number of categories of approaches to solving the problems. Applications of these approaches to individual students showed that there were three different types of problem-solver, described here as novice, expert and transitional. The results provide insight that will help tutors change how they, and subsequent students, approach problem solving.