Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.1, 30-36
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.31005
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
30
Exploring Parents’ and Teachers’ Views of Primary Pupils’
Thinking Skills and Problem Solving Skills
Subadrah Nair, Tang Ke ow Ngang
School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
Email: {subadrah, tang}@usm.my
Received April 16th, 2011; revised June 11th, 2011; accepted July 2nd, 2011
This article is based on a descriptive study using survey method and focus group interviews. Thinking
skills and problem solving skills are vital for pupils in their daily lives and facing their future challenges.
Therefore, parents and teachers play an important role in nurturing these skills among pupils. The objec-
tive of the study is to explore parents’ and teachers’ views of pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving
skills according to locations of the school (urban and rural). This study also explores parents’ and teach-
ers’ suggestions to enhance pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving skills. The sample consists of 302
parents of the pupils and 104 teachers who are teaching Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6. The quantitative data
for the research was collected using questionnaires which were developed by the researchers. Each set of
questionnaire consists of 23 items. While the qualitative data was collected through the focus group inter-
view method among parents and teachers to get their suggestions on how to enhance pupils’ thinking
skills and problem solving skills. The findings show that the urban parents’ views of children’s thinking
skills and problem solving skills is significantly higher than those from the rural. The results also indicate
that there is no significant difference between the urban school teachers’ and the rural school teachers’
views of pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving skills. Findings from the focus group interviews
show that most parents engage their children in hands on activities at home to enhance their thinking
skills and problem solving skills. On the other hand, teachers encourage active participation of pupils in
co-curricular activities to enhance pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving skills.
Keywords: Thinking Skills; Problem Solving Skills; Teachers’ and Parents’ Views; Urban and Rural
National Schools
Introduction
Thinking skills and problem solving skills are incorporated
in the teaching and learning activities of all the subjects taught
in primary and secondary schools in Malaysia. Thinking skills
and problem solving skills are given emphasis in the Malaysian
school curriculum to equip pupils to face challenges in their
daily lives and in their future. It is vital to nurture thinking
skills and problem solving skills among pupils so that they are
able to think critically and creatively in solving problems. Par-
ents and teachers play a very important role in nurturing these
skills among pupils (Ahmed, 2009). In schools, teachers infuse
thinking skills and problem solving skills through various sub-
jects taught in the school curriculum. Effective teachers engage
pupils in various learning activities which encourage the pupil
to think and solve problems (Beyer, 1987). Parents too play an
important role in educating children and they remain the pri-
mary educators of their children (The Learning Community
2011—TLC). Parents can also foster critical thinking at home
by asking questions that lack a single correct answer, and ask
them casually (Duke Gifted Letter, 2006). Meanwhile parents
play a supportive role in helping the children to acquire these
skills. Parents as the role models for children, guide them to be
better thinkers and enhance children’s thinking skills and prob-
lem solving skills.
According to Mumford, Mobley, Uhlman, Reiter-Palmon,
and Doares (1991), there are two types of problem solving such
as creative problem solving and general problem solving. Crea-
tive problem solving is ill defined and ambiguous, have multi-
ple appropriate and acceptable solutions. On the other hand
general problem solving is well defined and have one correct
solution and they do not allow creativity. Beyer (1987) describe
that thinking skills can be taught through six stages such as
introduction of the skill, gradual practice, individual application,
transfer and elaboration, guided practice in new situation and
autonomous use. Guilford (1967), categorized problem solving
as creative and creative production is generated when solving
problems. Problem solvi ng used in this study is creative proble m
solving as such de Bono’s CoRT thinking tools are appropriate
to gauge pupi ls’ cre ative th inking s kills and probl em so lving ski lls.
In this study, pupils thinking skills and problem solving
skills refers to the ability of pupils to generate ideas related to
tasks given to them. The items given in the questionnaires for
parents and teachers are similar and are related to de Bono’s
CoRT thinking tools such as Plus Minus Interesting (PMI),
Consider All Factors (CAF), RULES, Consequences and Se-
quences (C & S), Aims Goals and Objective (AGO), PLAN-
NING, First Important Priority (FIP), Alternatives Possibilities
and Choi ces (APC), DEC ISIONS a nd Othe r Peopl e Views (O PV).
For each item parents and teachers are required to gauge the
ability of pupils, to generate creative ideas according to five
scales such as very high, high, average, low and very low.
Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is to investigate whether there is
S. NAIR ET AL.
significant difference in parents’ and teachers’ views of primary
pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving skills according to
the location of the schools (urban and rural). Besides that, this
study also aims to obtain parents’ and teachers’ suggestions on
how to enhance pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving
skills.
Two null hypotheses were teste d at the 0.05 significance level
and two research questions were answered in this study. The
null hypotheses and the research questions ar e a s f ollows:
Ho1: There is no significant difference in the parents’ views
of children’s thinki/div>
solving skills. The ministry of education should conduct courses
for the in service teachers on ways to infuse thinking skills
among pupils of different abilities. This is important, so that
teachers do not neglect the weaker pupils and only concentrate
on the good ones while teaching. The finding from the focus
group interviews also show that teachers should use different
kinds of material to accommodate the diversity of the pupils,
such as using different worksheets for pupils of different levels.
Teachers should encourage active participation of pupils in
co-curricular activities, such as camping, competitions and
learning to give first aid. These activities give a lot of space for
pupils to enhance their thinking skills and problem solving
skills.
Another integral part of developing thinking skills and prob-
lem solving skills is by organizing educational trips for pupils
such as visits to museums, historical places, factories and holi-
day resorts. Teachers should organize such visits to broaden
pupils’ knowledge and thinking skills. Teachers should always
encourage and motivate pupils to think in creative ways and
solve problems.
Some parents mentioned that some teachers are not doing
enough to promote thinking skills and problem solving skills
among pupils. They think that teachers should be more com-
mitted to enhancing pupils’ thinking skills and problem solving
skills. One of the ways is by engaging pupils in “Project Based
Learning” in schools. Through “Project Based Learning pu-
pils learn a lot of things such as being independent, sharing,
learning to think and solving their own problems. It is hoped
that the findings of this study will give some insight to parents,
teachers and the ministry of education on how to enhance pu-
pils’ thinking skills and problem solving skills.
This study was conducted among parents and teachers from
four primary schools in the state of Kedah situated in the
Northern Zone of Malaysia. I would like to suggest future re-
search to be carried out among parents and teachers from more
primary schools in Malaysia. Similar research can also be car-
ried out among parents and teachers in the secondary schools.
This research did not involve pupils in the focus group inter-
view; it is hoped that future research will include pupils in the
focus group interview so that we can get more information from
the pupils on the activities carried out by teachers in the class-
rooms and suggestions from pupils to enhance their thinking
skills and problem solving skills.
This case study highlighted that parents and teachers play an
important role in developing pupils’ thinking skills and pro-
blem solving skills. However, most of the teachers are having
problems to infuse thinking skills and problem solving skills
among weak pupils because of the time constraint. Consequently,
certain amount of time to practice thinking skills and problem
solving skills through activities should be included in class-
room teaching. Creative education not only isolated to good
pupils but also to weak pupils as well. Developing creative
thinking among the pupils is all depending on the creativity of
their teacher in guiding the pupils to generate new and noble
ideas, and various ways of solving problems.
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