Toward a design theory of problem solving

  • David H. Jonassen


Problem solving is generally regarded as the most important cognitive activity in everyday and professional contexts. Most people are required to and rewarded for solving problems. However, learning to solve problems is too seldom required in formal educational settings, in part, because our understanding of its processes is limited. Instructional-design research and theory has devoted too little attention to the study of problem-solving processes. In this article, I describe differences among problems in terms of their structuredness, domain specificity (abstractness), and complexity. Then, I briefly describe a variety of individual differences (factors internal to the problem solver) that affect problem solving. Finally, I articulate a typology of problems, each type of which engages different cognitive, affective, and conative processes and therefore necessitates different instructional support. The purpose of this paper is to propose a metatheory of problem solving in order to initiate dialogue and research rather than offering a definitive answer regarding its processes.


Individual Difference Educational Technology Domain Specificity Cognitive Activity Problem Solver 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© the Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Jonassen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MissouriUSA

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