Friday, February 5, 2016

Teaching Problem Solving Skills to Technologists

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Geraldine Torrisi-Steele from Griffith University is speaking on "Supporting students' development of metacognition and problem solving skills". She suggests that students to taught study skills to develop metacognition should be built into courses, rather than a separate and optional training program. She argues that the students who need the training will not be aware they need it. In my view there should be both: some students will be identified as having difficulty and need to be diverted into special programs, most will need just a little promoting.

Torrisi-Steele administered a Metacognitive Awareness Inventory to computer science students and found that even some of the better students had limited awareness of how they learn. They then framed coding as problem solving and had students doing use cases. This reverses the usual sequence where students learn basic coding first and higher level design skills later.

Torrisi-Steele mentioned that primary school science teachers have techniques for developing metacognition in students and suggests this can be applied to university students. It occurs to me that there is a carefully designed Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies for years k to 10. Perhaps this could be adapted for university computing students. An interesting question is what will universities teach when student who have been through the new school curriculum? Also much of what Torrisi-Steeleis advocating is the use of basic teaching techniques, which school teachers are routinely trained in, but university lecturers are not.

Torrisi-Steele has previously published on Online Learning and Metacognition (2015).


Torrisi-Steele, G. (2015). Online Learning and Metacognition: A Design Framework. Handbook of Research on Learning Outcomes and Opportunities in the Digital Age, 221.

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