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Workable solutions

PROBLEM SOLVING IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, Edited by Mike Watts, Fulton Pounds 13.99. 1 85346 270 5. This book for practising primary and secondary teachers, teacher educators and advisers aims to offer ways of meeting national curriculum requirements without losing the fun and freedom associated with working on real problems.

It also sets out to explore the teaching of problem-solving techniques in a range of educational situations. The contributions have been organised into three broad sections: the nature of problem solving; problem-solving in different contexts; and problem solving with different groups of learners.

To describe the nature of problem solving, the editor answers the "what is it?" "why bother?", "how do you?" and "so what?" questions by drawing on the ideas of a range of authors. He ends by considering whose problem is being solved and the tensions this creates for a teacher using problem solving activity with a curriculum defined by knowledge.

The second contribution explores the meaning of technological capability in problem solving by focusing on the interaction of thought and action as illustrated by examples of young people tackling problems in the classroom.

Three contexts show the different approaches to problem solving. The chapter on intermediate technology introduces a global view of problem solving with reference to the sustainable uses of technology. The industrial context is described by referring to a range of useful teaching resources and strategies for use in the classroom. The third context, environmental problem solving, is dealt with in a chapter that rambles from environmental education as a cross-curricular theme, through the CREST award scheme, into ideologies of education and learning, including feminine science and technology, before ending up at Pensby School on the Wirral for a case study.

The final section discusses the extension of problem solving with a variety of learners. Problem solving for girls is considered through problems which have human appeal and no boys participating. This approach creates more problems than it solves. A project designed for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties or severe physical disabilities is described and evaluated by students and teachers. The evaluations are analysed and discussed to form conclusions in the best chapter in the book. The last two chapters deal with very able pupils and training teachers for problem solving.

Alan Boyle is senior inspector at Haringey Council Education Services.

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