David H. Jonassen, D.Ed.
University of Missouri, USA
The most important cognitive goal of education (formal and informal) in every educational context (public schools, universities and corporate training) is problem solving….I present the following warrants.
First, problem solving is the most authentic and therefore the most relevant learning activity that students can engage in. In everyday contexts, including work and personal lives, people solve problems constantly. No one in personal and professional contexts is rewarded solely for memorizing information and completing examinations. Problem solving is an essential “21st century skill,” specifically the ability to solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways and to identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions (http://www.21stcenturyskills.org).
Second, research has shown that knowledge constructed in the context of solving problems is better comprehended, retained, and therefore more transferable. When solving problems, students must think more critically. Also, the learning is situated in some authentic context, which makes it more meaningful.
Third, problem solving requires intentional learning. Learners must manifest an intention to understand the system or context in which problems occur in order to solve problems effectively. Meaningful learning cannot occur until and unless learners manifest an intention to learn. All human behavior is goal-driven. The clearer our goals are for learning, the more likely we are to learn meaningfully and mindfully.
Fourth, knowledge that is recalled and not used in some authentic tasks is too quickly forgotten, cannot be effectively applied, and in most disciplines becomes obsolete in a short time. Therefore, the primary purpose of education should be to engage and support learning to solve problems.