Enhancing Generic Thinking Skills of Tertiary STEM Students through Puzzle-based Learning
The aim of the project was to evaluate the impact of the regular use of puzzles, paradoxes and sophisms (PPS) as a pedagogical strategy for enhancing generic thinking skills of tertiary STEM students’. A significant number of tertiary STEM students drop out from their study during the first-year not because the courses are too difficult but because, in their words, they ‘are too dry and boring’. There are even such terms as emotional disengagement and academic disinterest. The intention of using PPS in teaching/learning is to engage students' emotions, creativity and curiosity and also enhance their critical thinking skills and lateral thinking “outside the box”. The theoretical considerations of the project were based on the Puzzle-Based Learning (Michalewicz & Michalewicz, 2008) concept that has become increasingly popular worldwide. The impact of the suggested pedagogical strategy was evaluated via comprehensive questionnaires, interviews and class observations involving 137 STEM students from four groups at AUT and the University of Auckland. The vast majority of the participants reported that the regular use of PPS helped them to enhance their problem-solving (91%) and generic thinking skills (92%). Apart from improving those skills, 82% of the participants commented on other various benefits from using this pedagogical strategy. After analysing the observed overwhelming positive students’ attitudes we suggest that there is a need for further and more rigorous investigation of the suggested pedagogical strategy.