An investigation into problem solving approaches adopted during graphical reasoning episodes.

Buckley, Jeffrey and Seery, Niall (2016) An investigation into problem solving approaches adopted during graphical reasoning episodes.


A core aim of contemporary design and technology education is the development of transferable and
robust problem solving skills. Graphical education is a critical component in achieving this aim as
it espouses to enhance students’ problem solving skills by developing spatial ability through the
inclusion of abstract visual problems. In addition to spatial reasoning, modelling is a critical
competency associated with problem solving as it can support reasoning by facilitating discourse
between a student and their conceptions.
A repeated cross-sectional study design was implemented to gather longitudinal data of student
approaches to solving graphical reasoning problems. The study cohort consisted of two
consecutive cohorts from Initial Technology Teacher Education (ITTE) programs who were
selected based on their engagement in a graphical education module. A battery of psychometric
tests of spatial ability was administered to each cohort as well as a selection of graphical tasks
within a summative assessment designed to target a selection of cognitive faculties. The results of
each measure were analysed through correlational analyses with problem solving strategies for
one common graphical problem selected for further analysis.
The findings illustrate higher correlational significance between spatial ability and graphical
performance in students with higher levels of spatial ability. A wider adoption of analytical
methods and modelling strategies is seen in students with lower levels of spatial ability. Potential
rationales are discussed for these findings concerning the adoption of analytical modelling
methods and ecological rationality in the selection of problem solving approaches.

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