Problem solving is “a critical cognitive activity that permeates many aspects of our day-to-day lives” from infancy forward.
Our review of research yielded the following interesting findings
- One study examined goal-directed problem-solving abilities (i.e., planning and execution) in novel problems among two-year-olds and found that children were able to solve multiple-step problems using cues.
- In another study of problem-solving skills, researchers found that as young children developed, their ability to manipulate an object to create an effect increased significantly. So did the ability to link skills together to solve a problem.
- Problem-solving can be improved in children through having them observe the learning process or even a tutoring lesson being provided to another child.
Here are some programs we’ve found that have demonstrated success in boosting problem-solving skills in children
- I Can Problem Solve. A 12-week program designed to teach problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to preschool and elementary school children. A 1982 study by researchers Myrna Shure and George Spivak found that young children who participated in the program demonstrated higher levels of cognitive problem-solving skills compared to their counterparts who did not receive the intervention. In addition, program participants demonstrated significant improvements in their behavior. The study also found that children who participated in the program for two consecutive years fared better than their peers who received the program once.
- Tools of the Mind. A curriculum that is designed to improve young children’s executive function, problem-solving skills, and self-regulation and is rooted in the work of Lev Vygotsky.
- ALAS dropout prevention. is a program designed for middle and high school students. It targets multiple factors associated with dropping out of school. Mentors/counselors create individual relationships with students and track the behaviors and successes of each student. What Works Clearinghouse found that participants in ALAS were more likely to stay in school and progress in their school careers.
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