Problem-Solving and Self-Efficacy for the Future

Problem-solving is a skill not to be underestimated in education or life.

A Life Skill

Problem-solving is a skill that cannot be underestimated in education or life. As teachers face more and more pressures from schools and society, just showing up to teach students often seems like an overwhelming job. Teachers can help their students take charge of their learning by teaching them to problem-solve. This helps alleviate some pressure off teachers, and it creates self-efficacy in students. Leading educational researcher John Hattie (2018) shows that self-efficacy can lead to two years or more of growth in a student, each year. Kirsherner and Stoyanov (2018) list efficacy as one of the key components of “future-proofing” education. Problem-solving also involves higher-order thinking and metacognitive strategies, which are also named as vital components of education in both studies.

[1] Combining simple machines becomes an invention, the mechanical arm.

[2] Students have fun building a mechanical arm and problem-solving to grab objects.

Solving as Play

When students begin building with Strawbees, it may seem at first as if they are just playing. Play is in fact part of the process, a precursor to problem-solving. Play leads to tinkering, tinkering leads to discovery, which over time leads to self-efficacy. When taking problem-solving out of a high-pressure context and put into the context of fun, play, tinker, discover, reflect, become the iterative steps to learning to solve problems.

[3] A simple cube can be connected into a large tower or recreated into various scales.

Trying Something New

Another natural step in building with Strawbees is “trying something new.” This may happen as part of play, or out of frustration when a project seems to be going nowhere. Trying something new and reflecting on how the new thing worked are essential parts to problem-solving. Thomas Edison, for example, tried over 6,000 different types of filaments for the first working light bulbs before he finally had success with carbonized cotton.

[4] Students begin by making a roller coaster with a straight track.

[5] Then they have the opportunity to “try something new” to change the direction of the ball with a curved track.

Multiple Contexts

It is important for students to learn how to problem-solve steps in a relaxed and enjoyable context of hands-on learning and discovery. In this context, they build confidence and self-efficacy. This confidence and self-efficacy can translate into more high-pressure situations that students might face in schools: decoding words, comprehending a challenging text, or solving a difficult math problem. Problem-solving also transfers into real life, and real-world problems.

Improving Over Time

Problem-solving skills, like many other skills, improve with time and practice. Students need multiple opportunities and contexts for practicing problem-solving. The Strawbees Classroom provides wide and varied learning opportunities grounded in relevant topics, such as the Sustainable Development Goals. With Strawbees Classroom, students practice solving problems through building, but also through addressing real-world issues. The new ideas, creativity, and solutions that students themselves will dream up is what inspires Strawbees to keep creating.

[6] Students prototyping solar panels for renewable energy solutions.

[7] And they also research other alternative energy solutions harnessing wind power with a horizontal axis wind turbine.

[8] Students collaborate with peers to prototype sustainable infrastructure for an urban area.