How novices formulate models. Part I: qualitative insights and implications for teaching
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Teaching novices how to formulate mathematical models for ill-structured problems is a challenging task. Little is known about how novices approach ill-structured problems and how their performance differs from that of experts. We audiotaped 28 MBA students while they worked through four ill-structured modelling problems. The task in each problem was to begin to develop a model that could ultimately be used for forecasting or analysis of alternative courses of action. We analysed transcripts of these think-aloud protocols both quantitatively and qualitatively. We observed five behaviours that are not typical of experts and that limit the effectiveness of our subjects. These include: over-reliance on given numerical data, taking shortcuts to an answer, insufficient use of abstract variables and relationships, ineffective self-regulation, and overuse of brainstorming relative to structured problem solving. We conclude that an effective modelling pedagogy should teach how to: formulate models both in the presence and the absence of data, abstract variables and relationships, employ control strategies for self-regulation, and use structured problem-solving methods.
Keywordsmodelling teaching problem solving
We thank the Tuck MBA students who volunteered for this study. Special thanks also go to Professor Zeynep Aksehirli of the Tuck School of Business for conducting the exercises and helping to code the transcripts. Transcripts of the verbal protocols are available to interested researchers from the authors.
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