Thursday, April 7, 2011

Theories and Theorists

Trial-and-Error Learning:  Edward Thorndike formulated the law of effect, and is known for his "cat in the puzzle box" project (New World Encyclopedia, 2008).  His work showed how animals try different approaches to receive a desired effect, with each attempt taking less time than the previous. This type learning is often observed in children. An example is a small child putting together a puzzle, how they try different angles with each piece until they fit appropriately (Ormrod, 2008).

Response Hierarchies:   From trial-and-error learning, people come to the conclusion that some responses work better and quicker than others.  These responses are placed in hierarchies, with the most successful at the top.  Next time the same problem approaches, the response with the highest success would be attempted first (Ormrod, 2008).

Insight: Wolfgang Kohler developed his theory based on chimpanzee behavior during problem solving activities.  He observed the fact that the chimps had a moment of "insight", when they contemplated a problem until a solution was determined.  When this insight occurred, the chimp would perform the necessary tasks in order to solve the problem at hand (Ormrod, 2008). 

Stages in Problem Solving:  Graham Wallace developed four stages of problem solving, revolving around the thought of insight.
Wallace's four steps included:
1.) Preparation:  Identifying the problem and finding information to assist with the solution.
2.) Incubation:  Letting the thought 'sit' while going on about daily life, but continuing to think about it subconsciously. 
3.) Inspiration:  'Insight' into the problem.
4.) Verification: Determining if the solution was appropriate.  

George Polya also developed four stages of problem solving, but these steps were more focused on "conscious, controlled mental activities" (Ormrod, 2008, p. 405). 
Polya's four steps are:
1.)  Understanding the problem:  "Identifying the problem's knowns (givens) and unknowns and, if appropriate, using suitable notation, such as mathematical symbols, to represent the problem" (Ormrod, 2008, p. 404).
2. ) Devising a plan: making a plan of actions
3.) Carrying out the plan:  "Executing the actions that have been determined to solve the problems and checking their effectiveness" (Ormrod, 2008, p. 404).
4.) Looking backward:  "Evaluating the overall effectiveness of the approach to the problem, with the intention of learning something about how similar problems may be solved on future occasions" (Ormrod, 2008, p. 404). 

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