Views of Learning, Teaching Practices and Conceptions of Problem Solving in Science

  • Keith Trigwell
  • Michael Prosser
  • Ference Marton
  • Ulla Runesson


In this chapter we first describe university science teachers differing ways of understanding what it takes for their students to solve problems. Using the phenomenographic approach described in the chapter by Martin et al., this volume, we have found significant variation in how teachers understand student problem solving situations in science courses. Some of the teachers conceive the problem as obvious or unproblematic to the student and in these cases problem solving is experienced as a process of application. Others focus on the meaning of the problem and consider the interpretation of this to be important. In these cases the problem solving process is experienced as understanding and making sense of the problem. This variation has been constituted from interviews with seventeen teachers of first year science students. In the same interviews the teachers were asked questions about their conceptions of teaching, their conceptions of learning and their approaches to teaching. We found that most teachers who conceived of teaching as transmitting knowledge to students also conceive the problem as unproblematic to the student. On the other hand, those teachers who conceived of teaching as helping students develop or change their conceptions also saw that students’ understanding of the meaning of the problem is not experienced as obvious or unproblematic. In a more detailed analysis of three of the cases we found that these experiences of problem solving are embedded in more general views of learning — three very different views of what it takes for students to solve problems are embedded in three very different views of learning. Thus the chapter describes relations between teachers’ conceptions of teaching, their views of learning and their conceptions of the classroom practice of problem solving in tertiary science courses.

Key words

Problem solving conceptions of teaching conceptions of learning 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Trigwell
  • Michael Prosser
  • Ference Marton
  • Ulla Runesson

There are no affiliations available

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