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Information Problem-Solving Models in Curriculum Design

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Information problem-solving models can help students learn how to seek and apply information as they solve problems. But how can schools implement these models across the curriculum? In this lesson, we'll answer that question.

Information Problem-Solving

Jamila is an assistant principal at a middle school. Her job is to help the teachers in her school be the best teachers they can be. She's heard that they can be successful by using information problem-solving models across the curriculum, but she isn't sure what those are.

Various information problem-solving models focus on teaching students to take information in, analyze and synthesize it, and apply it to problems. For example, a student doing a research project in history class needs to know what information s/he needs for the project, how to find and evaluate that information, how to sort through what is more and less relevant, and then put it all together. Information problem-solving models can teach this student how to do all this.

To Jamila, teaching students how to work with information sounds great. She thinks information problem-solving models sound like they could really help her school. But she's still a bit fuzzy on what these models are.

Types of Problem-Solving Models

To help Jamila understand how information problem-solving models might work at her school, let's take a closer look at their characteristics and how they can be used across the curriculum.

Here are some examples:

  • Super 3 (for younger students)
  • Big 6 (for older students)
  • Information Search Process, or ISP
  • Research process model (REACTS)
  • I-Search

The differences in the models are mostly in slightly different steps for finding and using information. They have three key things in common though:

1. Each model has a process for finding and using information in problem-solving.

For example, the Big 6 program offers a six-step process for dealing with information. If Jamila's teachers use this program in their classrooms, they will teach their students the steps for how to find, analyze, and use information in problem-solving.

2. Each model involves identifying, finding, analyzing, and synthesizing information.

Some of these skills might be broken out into two or more steps in the process, and they might be called slightly different things, but all information problem-solving models teach these skills when solving a problem.

3. Each model's focus is on approaching problems with a seeker's mind.

Jamila wants the students in her school to learn how to track down information to help inform their problem-solving. For example, a student in an English classroom is about to read To Kill A Mockingbird, and so will need to seek out information about the Great Depression and race relations in the Jim Crow south, as they play a role in understanding the book.

Curriculum Design

Jamila isn't sure how these models should be implemented in her school. How can science teachers and English teachers both use the same information problem-solving model?

The types of problems and information students use in each class will be different of course, but there are some common elements. These are:

1. Explicitly teach students the model.

Teachers will want to use the context of the assignments in their content area to teach students how to use the model. For example, a history teacher might guide his students through the information problem-solving steps as they work on research papers centered on a historical time or theme.

In contrast, a science teacher might teach her students the information problem-solving model while having them work through an experiment or other science project.

2. Offer assignments focused on problem-solving instead of rote learning.

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