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PISA Reports on Collaborative Problem Solving
By Tiffani Razavi, TIE Staff Writer 13-Apr-18
Collaborative problem solving, as assessed by PISA in 2015, is indicated by “the ability to maintain an awareness of group dynamics, ensure team members act in accordance with their agreed roles, and resolve disagreements and conflicts while identifying efficient pathways and monitoring progress towards a solution.” In these terms, the review of data indicates that, across all countries involved in the assessment, only 8 percent of students are considered top performers in collaborative problem solving, with 28 percent able to solve only straightforward problems, if at all. However, there is a considerable spread across countries; in some (for example Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Estonia) fewer than one in six is a low achiever in collaborative problem solving. The data show that this competency is positively correlated to performance in the core PISA subjects (science, reading, and mathematics), though in some countries (Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the United States) students perform much better in this area than would be predicted by their core subject scores. In contrast to the assessment of individual problem solving in 2012, the 2015 data show that girls consistently and significantly outperform boys in all countries in collective problem solving. Positive relationships with peers, teachers, and parents, along with particularly fair treatment by teachers, are factors associated with higher collaboration scores, as is use of the internet and social networks outside school. However, students who report playing video games regularly score slightly lower in collaboration skills. While many school subjects provide opportunities to cultivate skills in and positive attitudes towards collaboration, physical education is especially relevant. The PISA report indicates that participation in physical activity enhances positive attitudes towards collaboration, with students who attend physical education classes once or twice a week scoring highest in collaborative problem solving. Attitudes towards collaboration are positive among students in all countries, though there are gender differences in emphasis. Girls tend to value relationships more than boys, while boys are more likely than girls to value teamwork. The data show no clear relationship between socio-economic or immigrant background and the ability to work productively with others, but the report suggests that the mingling of students from different backgrounds might serve to enhance collaboration, and calls for further investigation of the role of exposure to diversity of experience and perspective in the development of this skill set.
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