Heuristics (Problem Solving)

August 31st, 20116:24 am


Heuristics (Problem Solving)

Heuristics (Problem Solving)

Heuristics is akin to Cognitive Code-Learning Theory that stressed on the necessity “to engage the student’s full mental powers”. Heuristics is understood here as the ability of teachers to provide new ideas, aid and direction that will help learners solve specified problem-posing tasks. In current methodology heuristics is the principle of instruction by which the learner is set to find out things for himself. Of great importance here is the ability of the teacher to “lead” his students to the solution of the problem and dissipate negative factors that block the way to learning.

The teacher uses effective ways of deeply understanding learners in their struggle to learn to solve problems. The principles of Rogerian counselling suggest that the learner should talk honestly and openly within the group about the learning experience, feeling confident of being understood and his attempts supported by the teacher if needed. In elementary school the strategy of Total Physical Response is a kind of a solving problem game in which learners demonstrate their ability to carry out increasingly longer and more complex instructions.

The key instructional principle is to provide immediate feedback on whether each choice made by the pupils is correct or faulty. This may also apply to the availability of visual support for a given class period. Generally, it is the teacher who initiates a problem (a problem-posing task, question, riddle, etc.). Investigations show that when pupils set their own problems, they solve them willingly and generate new ideas.

Students may need to be oriented to the task itself so that they know what is expected of them. For example, the instruction to ‘discuss’ a topic may be meaningless to many students where such discussion is not a normal part of the teaching process. The general rule is to formulate tasks in terms students can understand and make sure that the instructions are clear. In giving instructions we should always:

– Think through instructions from the point of view of the student.

– Stage the instructions carefully and make sure the students understand at each stage. Do this by asking for a demonstration or for an answer to a question which proves understanding. A ‘yes’/’no’ answer to ‘Do you understand?’ is not particularly revealing. If the task is very complex it might be advisable to set up a rehearsal before asking students to start.

– Make sure that instructions are given clearly. Insist on silence and make sure you can be seen. Use demonstration and gestures where possible. Students are sometimes not motivated to talk because they lack involvement in the topic. However, even where students admit interest, they may be reluctant or unwilling to talk about it in English because they lack the linguistic resources to give a subject the treatment it deserves. We should also remember that it is not always natural to enter into prolonged discussion on controversial topics. More often than not we limit ourselves to strong opinion rather than extended or reasoned argument. We tend to think about things which are within our experience, and talks built around such areas as “family life”, “holidays”, “personal experiences”, etc. usually generate a lot of discussion when they are used with senior students.

Heuristics restores and stimulates curiosity, encourages students to work in accordance with their interests and set out for themselves goals that appeal to them. It provides students with new tasks and thereby “feeds” their interests. It lets students participate in designing new tasks, provides interactive situations and lets students evaluate themselves.

Problem solving instruction can range all across the formal and informal curricula but it should use content where the students are knowledgeable. The social areas of school provide a wide range of possibilities. For example, junior students can examine a problem that occurs regularly on the playground such as arguing during kickball games. Senior students might have a class project such as attending a performance in a nearby city or a play that have been reading in English. The problem solving could focus on logistical arrangements and/or raising money for the trip. Travers et al. (1993) described a four-step model for problem solving named with an acronym to help students remember it. The name of the strategy is DUPE. The letters and the processes they describe are:

D Define the problem. Factor out any extraneous or irrelevant information. Pay attention to the important details including seeking any needed data.

U Understanding the nature of the problem. It is not sufficient to know what the problem is. The problem solvers usually identify what they know already about the problem, the “givens”. Some sort of diagram or symbolic form can be useful in representing a problem. Another crucial aspect of understanding the problem is establishing the criteria that will define a satisfactory solution.

P Plan the solution. Select a process, formula, or behaviour that will produce a solution.

E Evaluate the outcome. Evaluation occurs twice. First, the plan must be examined to determine its suitability for this particular problem. Then after the solution has been applied, it must be evaluated against the criteria that were established beforehand.

The students make decisions about what action to take to mitigate the problem, and they proceed to take that action which might be to write letters to the editor, solicit high-level support or other methods. Following that, there might be a summative review and practice during which key linguistic pragmatic items used in the problem identification, reflection-research and action steps are gone over. The primary intent of the teacher is to bring about conscientization and emotional involvement in the issues discussed, and to see those subsequently raised to concerted action responses. The learners become deeply involved personally and communally in the communication process on matters that reflect their lives and on which their action can have influence; they will experience increased readiness to learn what is perceived as needed.

The analysis of problem-posing situation when the problem is set by the teacher, deserves consideration. The efficacy of heuristics is stipulated by the fact that the problem should be clearly understood by all learners.

One of the possible means of heuristics is a problem-posing situation, which consists of:

1. the problem itself and its components: a condition and a task. The task can either point out to the problem or leave it for the students to seek rational solutions;

2. the unknown component which can be either the aim, the means or the condition;

3. the process of solving the problems can be assisted by the teacher or performed by the students independently;

4. the subject matter which requires linguistic and professional competence and gnostic skills to solve the problem successfully. It is the combination of all the above-mentioned components that can ensure a successful solution of the problem.

The problems themselves include lexical, grammatical and phonological items. Let us examine three main types of lexical problems suggested by Eyger G. and Rapoport I.

1. Extralinguistic problems which presuppose mastering and alternation of texts in the target language.

1.1. Forequestions.

1.2. Gnostic problems: linguistic, logical.

1.3. The problems that require to express one’s opinion in different speech situations.

2. Verbal problems based on linguo-didactic texts. We find a renewed interest in tests of cloze type in which every fourth, or fifth, or sixth, etc. item is omitted.

3. Linguistic problems that aim at mastering linguistic forms and structures.

3.1. Establishing of the meaning of unknown words.

3.2. Differentiation of synonyms and antonyms.

3.3. Reproduction of lexical units in difficult situations.

3.4. Determination of polysemy and paronymy in the context.

3.5. Determination of the meaning of affixes.

3.6. Grammatical paraphrases. (Exercises on the use of modal verbs.) For example, the sentence “It is out of the realm of possibility” can be paraphrased – It can’t be done.

3.7. Lexico-stylistical paraphrases. For example, the sentence “ You are a real prima donna” depending on the prosody of the speech segment can be interpreted in different ways:

The husband praised his wife’s vocal efforts or The husband ridiculed his wife’s vocal efforts.

Lexico-stylistical paraphrases are widely used in converting direct speech into indirect speech.

The above-given classification of lexical problems shows what ample possibilities the problem posing approach opens in foreign language teaching.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.