Developing problem-solving skills in adult learners

Date of Completion

January 2002


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Vocational




Economic and technological changes challenge educators to provide opportunities to students that will help them acquire new knowledge and skills, modify existing skills, and more importantly, adapt existing knowledge and skills to new work environments. ^ In the past, educators have made limited progress in helping adult students develop the problem-solving skills necessary to establish and maintain employment in today's information-based economy. The purpose of this research study was to identify the ways and extent to which “depth of processing instructional techniques” (DOPITs) implemented in courses at a large Mid-Atlantic University helped adult students develop the problem-solving skills they will need to transition smoothly from one work environment to another. ^ Three research questions were developed to examine the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. The Metacognitive Problem Solving Appraisal (MPSA) pretest and posttest assignments were developed to measure problem-solving skills among adult students. The MPSA assessed how well adult students employed analytical-deductive, analogical, and inductive reasoning during problem solving. ^ Results were examined using an ANCOVA with the pretest included as a covariate. In addition, a Student Problem Solving Survey (SPSS) was developed and administered to adult students. Responses to open-ended questions, student comments, entries in teacher logs, and responses to interview questions were evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the DOPITs in helping adult students develop problem-solving skills. ^ The results of the study indicated that students felt that the DOPITs were effective in helping them problem solve, and teachers perceived that the use of the DOPITs helped them become better teachers of adult learners. Theoretical and practical significance of the findings are discussed. ^