Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

Computer-mediated Problem-solving in Social and Scientific Contexts

Dr Paul Howard-Jones, Jennifer Bomford, Richard Joiner.

It is hoped that computer-based learning may provide new opportunities to support and to assess the development of children’s problem-solving skills. There are, however, a variety of reasons why the surface features of the problem’s context may influence both the strategies of the learner and, hence, their achievement. Some studies have found that when children work in familiar environments, such as encountered socially, they are more influenced by their prior beliefs and have more difficulty in being objective and systematic. On the other hand, our problem-solving skills appear to have originated in response to social issues, and some evolutionary psychologists have even suggested we may possess a specialised “module” that makes us more adept at solving problems set within a social context. An awareness of such context-based effects and the determination of whether they are deleterious or advantageous for the problem-solver are clearly important issues for the design of computer-based learning environments. Two experimental studies are reported here that investigated how children worked within social and scientific contexts on computer-mediated problems that required the same essential thinking skills. Dynamic analysis of the children’s progress revealed a progressive adaptation of thinking strategies. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the design of computer–mediated learning environments.


Dr Paul Howard-Jones  (United Kingdom)
Lecturer in Education, Technology and Society
Graduate School of Education
University of Bristol

Research interests in the development and assessment of thinking skills using ICT, creativity and the application of neuroscience in education. Programme Director of MSc in Education, Technology and Society.

Jennifer Bomford

Richard Joiner

  • Computer-mediated Learning
  • Problem Solving
  • Dynamic Analysis
  • Context
  • Thinking strategies

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)