A preliminary model of problem categorisation to explore the cognitive abilities required for problem solving in engineering education.
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The provision of engineering education as a means of enabling students to develop contemporary transversal competencies such as problem solving, critical thinking, adaptive reasoning and communication, places a responsibility on curriculum designers to reposition these aptitudes within the hierarchy of desired skills. Problem solving is a fundamental attribute of each engineering discipline and plays a pivotal role in the work of an engineer. Problem solving is highlighted as a higher-order cognitive task that engages actions and thoughts, which prompts this investigation of it through a cognitive lens. With consideration of the range of abilities contributing to an individual’s general cognitive ability, the likely cognitive abilities necessary for successful problem solving are explored and positioned within the context of engineering education and the broader engineering profession. The problems faced by engineers differ through a variety of means. Problems can vary from well- to illdefined, and through the requirement of reflective or active means to solve them. It is proposed that the cognitive abilities necessary to problem solve vary depending on these factors. A model is presented which aims to support the identification of the cognitive abilities necessary for problem solving in consideration of the nature of and approach taken to solving a problem. Through consideration of these elements, the model aims to support engineering education and industrial training programs in addressing the skills gaps that have emerged through the advancements of technology and society.
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