Real world problem solving: advancing cognitive developmental science and supporting informal education

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Psychology


To succeed in a complex environment, we must solve the problems encountered, from finding food to learning to work technology. Humans excel at this problem solving. Researching children's problem solving is key to understanding the psychological processes involved, as processes are examined as they emerge and develop. We also better understand children's capacities, which is essential for supporting their learning. This PhD unites these goals: work closely with Thinktank museum to address theoretical questions through experimental studies and to develop and evaluate museum STEM activities using observational methods.

Key research questions:
- How does children's ability to spot problems develop? Are children influenced by problem-solving with others? How do children communicate their solutions?
- How can evidence be applied to support development of informal education activities?

Methods and techniques
Three phases of research each address a neglected aspect of children's problem solving. Each phase has one theoretical study and one applied study:
- Problem spotting
- Collaboration
- Communication


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1929061 Studentship ES/P000711/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Sonia Rishi
Description Meet the scientist event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We carried out a public outreach event, where we set up a stall at a local science museum whose visitors are parents with their children (under 11's), we carried out small developmental experiments with the parents and children. We asked parents and children if they had any questions and we talked about our research and how they could be involved if they were interested.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019