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Procedía Social and Behavioral Sciences 2 (2010) 1630-1635

WCES-2010

The perceived problem solving skills of primary mathematics and primary social sciences prospective teachers

Gunes Yavuza *, Cigdem Arslana, Dilek C. Gultena

"Istanbul University Education Faculty Elemantary Education Department, Istanbul, Turkey Received October 14, 2009; revised December 23, 2009; accepted January 7, 2010

Abstract

The aim of this study is to determine whether there are differences in prospective mathematics and social science teachers' perceived problem solving skills with respect to their department. In other words to investigate whether their perceived learning skills vary according to their four year university education. Findings show that problem solving skill levels of prospective teachers are below the average, the skills do not differ according to their departments and senior prospective teachers' problem solving skills are higher than the freshman prospective teachers. Moreover female prospective teachers have higher problem solving skills than male prospective teachers and the ones studying regularly to courses also have higher skills than the ones studying before the exam. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Problem solving skills; teacher education.

1. Introduction

Problem is a confliction, which can be described as frustration the individual faces. Frustration complicates achieving an aim. In a situation like this, problem solving is to find the best way to overcome the complication (Morgan, 1999). John Dewey defines the problem as everything that puzzles human mind (Baykul, Tekisik & Saglamer, 1983). Problem is an ambiguous and a difficult case. What is important in a problem is that, it is a question to be discovered, to be discussed and to be thought on. Problem is also defined as a difficulty desired to be solved (Van De Valle, 1980). Briefly problem, described in many sources, explained as difficulties which individual faces and couldn't estimate the result. Problems are encountered in every field of the life. Improvement is not possible without problem. This is because problem requires mental effort and results in development of human and revolution of the current situation (Yavuz, 2006).

Conception of problem changes from individual to individual; therefore problem solving behaviors change depending on this. Heppner and Petersen (1982) used problem solving synonymous with coping with a problem.

* Gunes Yavuz. Tel.: +90-505-3949165; fax: +90 2125130579 E-mail address: gyavuz@istanbul.edu.tr

1877-0428 © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.249

Kuzgun, (1982) specifies the problem solving phases as recognizing the difficulty, true definition of the problem, practicing and evaluation.

Capability of problem solving is the most required skill for the maintenance of human generation. Contemporary education aims raising individuals who can overcome the difficulties by themselves since it is not possible to know what kind of complications we are going to come up with or what kind of requirements are going to come out in society life. Information by itself could not solve a problem. A person with developed capability of problem solving can make use of information effectively. And person without this skill only carries this information. In this regard, problem solving and teaching how to solve problem is very important (Altun, 2005). Problem solving skill should be taught and the students should be raised in that way as an individual in education foundations. For as much as skill is defined as usage of information in an effective way (Bursalioglu, 1999).

If education is thought as a period of problem solving, teacher should have a good problem solving skill. In this context teacher's skill to solve problem should be evaluated. Teacher's skill to solve problem is very important because they are the guides of students while gaining basic information, skills, and habits. Researching future teachers of Education faculty from social science and mathematics department's freshman and senior classes and their level of problem solving skill forms the objective of this study. In this sense the answers for the questions below are looked for:

1-What is the level of prospective teachers' problem solving skills?

2-Do prospective teachers' problem solving skills vary

a) according to classes

b) according to departments

c) according to gender

d) according to students' study circumstances.

3-Do the problem solving skill levels of Mathematics' freshman and senior grade prospective teachers differentiate?

4-Do the problem solving skill levels of Social Sciences freshman and senior grade prospective teachers differentiate?

2. Method

2.1. Participants

The study was conducted in the fall of 2009 academic year at Istanbul University in Turkey. Participants were 217 prospective teachers who were attending at mathematics and social sciences education departments in faculty of education. Study group is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Means and standard deviations of prospective teachers' problem solving skills scores

Departments

Mathematics Social Sciences Total

Class freshman 35 81 116

senior 51 50 101

Total 86 131 217

2.2. Data Collection

A descriptive survey research design was used in this study. As a means of data collection; personal information forms developed by the researcher and problem solving inventory which is developed by Heppner and Petersen (1982) and adapted to Turkish by Sahin, Sahin and Heppner (1993) are used. This inventory aims to measure the reactions against the problems, individuals face in lifetime how they perceive their own problem solving skills. From 35 items, attained by positive and negative formulas in the scale, 32 of them are taken into evaluation. Items have answers suitable for six point gradation. Confidence in problem solving skill, self control and approach-avoidance sub-scales take place. High points indicate how low is perception of problem solving skill (Sahin, Sahin & Heppner, 1993). The results obtained from the studies of adaptation, validity and reliability show that the scale

can be used for the research in spite of some restrictions (Taylan, 1990; Savasir and Sahin, 1997; Cam, 1995). Problem solving inventory is only evaluated as total score in this study.

Content of the inventory is consisting of 35 items as a six point Likert scale. Some of the items are positive while some are negative. Scale shows the scores relating to the total scores of problem solving skill perception and sub-scales.

Given answers are scored from 1 to 6. During the scoring, 9th, 22nd, 29th items are excluded; therefore scoring is made out of 32 items. Item numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 21, 25, 26, 30 and 34 are scored adversely. The range of the inventory score is between 32 and 192.

Highest scores obtained from the scale indicate that individuals percept themselves inadequate in problem solving. Oppositely if the scores are low then it is the sign of positive perception of problem solving skill.

2.3. Data Analysis

SPSS 13.00 statistics program is used for the analysis during the analysis arithmetic means and standard deviations of the problem solving skill level scores are calculated. T-test, variance analysis and Scheffe tests are applied in order to find whether the differences between the arithmetic means are relevant or not. And the significance levels for the statistical analyses is accepted as p<.05.

3. Results

Findings of the first sub-problem are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Means and standard deviations of prospective teachers' problem solving skills scores

N — SS

217 94.15 17.93

As shown in Table 2 high scores ( x =94.15) of prospective teachers indicate that their skills are below the medium level. In order to observe this situation in terms of some variables sub-problems are formed.

Findings of sub-problem 'do the problem solving skills of prospective teachers differ according to the department?' are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. t-test results of prospective teachers' problem solving skills according to their departments

Departments N x SS t p

Mathematics 86 92.25 17.28 1.26 0.20

Social Sciences 131 95.40 18.31

It is clear that problem solving skills do not differ according to the department (p>0.05). The fact that averages are so close to each other, couldn't let the differences to be seen statistically. But prospective teachers in two departments are below the average in terms of problem solving skill. #

T-Test results made in order to answer the question of 'Do the prospective teachers' problem solving skills differ according to the class?', are given in Table 4.

Table 4. t-test results of prospective teachers' problem solving skills according to the class

Departments N x SS t p

1.class 116 99.24 17.45 4.6 0.00

4.class 101 88.31 16.73

It is shown that there is a statistical difference between freshman and senior class prospective teachers in terms of problem solving levels. The difference is because freshman prospective teachers' scores are higher than senior

prospective teachers. This means that freshman prospective teachers have lower problem solving skills and education period helps them to develop this skill.

Findings of sub-problem 'do the problem solving skills of prospective teachers differ according to the gender?' are shown in Table 5.

Table 5. t-test results of prospective teachers' problem solving skills according to gender

Gender N — SS t p

Female 114 91.55 18.45 2.27 0.024

Male 103 97.03 16.97

As seen in Table 5, female prospective teachers have lower scores than the male ones, and this reveals the statistic difference. (p<0.05) This means female prospective teachers' problem solving skills perceptions are higher than male ones.

Another sub-problem 'do the problem solving skills of prospective teachers differ according to their studies in the lessons?' is shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Results of prospective teachers' problem solving skill averages according to their studies in the lessons

N X SS F p

Study lessons regularly 17 84.76 13,17445

Study lessons in all free times 20 91.65 22,19833 4.03 0.00

Study lessons before exam 128 97.37 17,09215

Never study 52 90.26 17,99904

There is a significant difference between the prospective teachers' problem solving skills when we consider their studies in the lessons as shown in Table 6 (p<0.05). The students studying regularly having lower scores than the ones studying before the exams creates the statistical differences.

Another sub-problem is 'do the problem solving skills of freshman and senior mathematics prospective teachers differ?' The answer is given in Table 7.

Table 7. t-test results of Mathematics department prospective teachers' problem solving skill according to the class

Class N X SS t p

Freshman 35 108,31 17.73 2.8 0.00

Senior 51 97.66 17.01

Last sub-problem is "do the problem solving skills of freshman and senior Social Sciences prospective teachers differ?". The answer is given in Table 8.

Table 8. t-test results of Social Sciences department prospective teachers' problem solving skill according to the class

Class N — SS t p

Freshman 81 109,39 17.83 3.5 0.00

Senior 50 98.08 18.10

Lower average scores of senior prospective teachers compared to freshman prospective teachers reveal the statistical difference (p<0.05). This result indicates that senior prospective teachers' problem solving skills are higher than freshman prospective teachers.

4. Conclusion and Discussion

Findings show that problem solving skills levels of prospective teachers are below the average, the skills do not differ according to their departments and senior prospective teachers' problem solving skills are higher than the

freshman prospective teachers. Moreover female prospective teachers have higher problem solving skills than male prospective teachers and the ones studying regularly also have higher skills than the ones studying before the exam.

Other researches are also supportive of the findings. According to the class variable the results of the statistical analysis show that senior prospective teachers' problem solving skills are higher than the freshman prospective teachers (Polat, 2008). Tümkaya & iflazoglu, (2000) analyzed the negative automatic thought and problem solving skill levels and the relation between them, considering some socio-demographic variables in their research. As a result they found relevant differences. First grade students' note that they are inadequate when compared to senior students in terms of problem solving skill. Katkat (2001), discovered that the higher the grade, the higher the problem solving skill except 1st and 2nd grade students. This is because the students' professional knowledge and pedagogic knowledge levels increase in every coming class.

Female students perceive themselves more positive than male students in terms of problem solving skills (Polat, 2008; Polat & Tümkaya 2010; Katkat, 2001; Gallagher et al, 1999).

Tümkaya and Bal (2006) state that students with high success levels have high points in terms of starting lesson and continuing to study it, conscious studying, participation in the lesson, reading habits and techniques, preparation for the exams, doing homework, and using libraries and written sources when compared to the students who has medium or low success levels. In this context it can be said that regular studies help students develop their problem solving skills.

In the light of the research findings the items below can be suggested.

1. Due to the fact that problem solving skill is a cognitive quality, Education Faculties should give the required time and importance to the education programs in order to develop problem solving skills.

2. Teacher guidance should be prepared by a commission of Education Faculties in order to develop problem solving skills.

3. Problem solving activities should take place beginning from freshman for the development of problem solving skills.

4. The students with high problem solving skills and the ones with low problem solving activities should be identified and the reason why they feel themselves inadequate in terms of problem solving skills should be gathered and solutions should be searched.

5. Studies should be done in order to gain habit of regular studying.

6. Education atmosphere and conditions of prospective teachers should be improved when the positive attitudes of students who are satisfied with the department, are taken into consideration.

7. Similar researches should be done in education foundations.

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