Collaborative Problem Solving in Science

World ORT has partnered with Pearson, taking a leading role in developing collaborative skills between Israeli and European schools.

Collaborative problem solving and science literacy are the two major areas that the OECD selected in 2015 for primary development in PISA 2015. Science is one of the most popular subjects in schools in Israel, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and other developed countries. Science curricula include theory and practical study units of biology, physics, chemistry and interdisciplinary topics.

227 students have 7 weeks to find solutions to environmental issues

Students aged 13-16 and their teachers from schools in Europe and Israel have been paired together during science lessons to collaboratively solve simulated environmental problems on a fictitious island ‘Animalia’. Using an online platform, students complete weekly tasks over 7 weeks, finding solutions to environmental issues through collaboration with their partners who are situated in different countries.

It is widely acknowledged that collaborative problem solving is an essential skill in the home, the workforce, and the community. Indeed, much of the planning, problem solving, and decision making in the modern world is performed by teams. One important advantage of collaboration is that the problem solving solutions by a group are sometimes better than the sum of the solutions of the individual members. Sometimes better solutions emerge when there are differences in points of view, disagreements, and other forms of social disequilibrium in order to minimize inferior solutions via group think.

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Teamwork and collaboration across borders

Last year, World ORT secured the commitment of 9 schools for this initiative (four in Israel, two in Italy, one in Bulgaria, one in Czech Republic and one in Spain), and each school agreed to allocate 14 hours of class time to the project. Students would take part in collaborative complex problem-solving in a revised Animalia science mini-course. The intent is to expose students to the realities of collaborating with students from another country in order to solve science problems, and to foster the value of this practice.

The program aims to develop both the teacher’s ability to facilitate students’ collaborative problem solving processes in the context of science and interdisciplinary topics, and the collaboration of students with their peers from across the world, simulating real-world experience in collaborating with people from different cultures, with different levels of English proficiency and different levels of scientific knowledge and across different time zones.