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Horticulture students link problem-solving to employment
Date:3/17/2011

AMES, IARecognizing the need for university students to develop problem-solving skills they will need in their careers, educators are looking to student-centered, problem-based learning strategies. Problem-based learning (PBL) experiences have been shown to promote higher-order thinking skills in students, but, for faculty, implementing and assessing problem-based activities often means a substantial time investment. Iowa State University professor Ann Marie VanDerZanden and graduate student Tigon Woline published a study in HortTechnology that reported on an innovative approach to integrating case-based problem-solving and computer-based instruction.

According to VanDerZanden, some problemsin the classroom as in the real world of workhave one clear solution, while others have many paths that can lead to an answer. In educational language, the former type of problem is called "well-structured" while the latter is termed "ill-structured". While traditional textbooks feature mostly well-structured problems, ill-structured problems are more common and often more challenging. Many educators find that students are inadequately prepared to solve real-world problems because these ill-structured problems are rarely posed in traditional education courses.

As a means of encouraging faculty to use more problem-based activities, an online environment called The Problem-solving Learning Portal (PSLP) was developed by an interdepartmental team of Iowa State faculty members. The environment includes a database with resource documents, an Internet interface, and instructor-provided questions. To evaluate the online PSLP environment for use in solving an ill-structured horticulture case study, VanDerZanden and Woline designed a research study involving Iowa State University students enrolled in a landscape class.

The researchers assigned 45 students a series of four online, ill-structured case study problems based in a realistic residential landscape.
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert

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