The Field of Robotics Delves Into Numerous Interdisciplinary Skills
Problem-solving is one of those complex areas in education which is both extremely valuable to learn about but very difficult to know how to teach. Some critical thinking, analysis and problem solving is inherent, but with correct training, a student can learn how to improve in these areas and take these improved skills into their later lives. Searching for ways to teach students these skills has often involved looking ‘outside of the box’, and one good example of this is looking into the field of robotics. Let’s take a look at how robotics can help develop analytical thinking in students.
No One Right Answer
Students who engage with robotics in an educational sense will learn quickly that there often isn’t a single correct or definitive answer and that much more of what goes into robotics involves testing and analyzing options until one can figure out the best path to choose. This in itself is already a good place to start. Modern day education traditionally revolves around testing, where there is a right answer and students are using whatever pre-learned information they can to find it. This is a very limiting outlook. Having no single right answer requires real broad-spectrum problem solving and can really work to develop these skills.
Robotics is a unique field from the perspective of a student in education. It’s deeply scientific and yet it is practical, each mathematical decision having a real world impact on the outcome. Critical thinking and problem solving can be so hard to teach students because of how inter-disciplinary they are: not just mathematical or linguistic or psychological or scientific. Robotics has a similar sense in which the contents of a robotics course will be so many different things, with the analytical, mathematical side existing alongside the physicalized manifestation of the outcome of the work. This unusual amalgamation of aspects makes it a valuable way to begin to impart the skills of problem-solving onto the minds of students.
The Importance of Perseverance
Persevering with a problem until it is actually solved is necessarily an aspect of problem solving. It is not the equivalent to wrestle with an issue temporarily and then abandon ship when things get too complex. Problem solving requires a solution. In the same way, robotics, which is a complex and difficult field, with a whole range of possible paths which can be taken at any one time, is a field which demands perseverance to make it to the end of a problem and to get the outcome you want. By engaging in robotics, students are able to evolve this part of the problem solving skill set as well.
Looking Beyond Grading
For most students, the final grade is what really matters to them. It is sad that this is the case, but you can’t blame them when they are raised within an educational system where the focus is so wholeheartedly on getting good marks and using the associated grades to continue on into further education. Focusing on good grades often mean that they are looking for the quickest way to the right answer, which can involve learning a formula or an answer key and not actually developing problem solving skills. Robotics offers an opportunity for teachers and professors to grade based on less tangible things than exam marks, like observing team work, communication, quality of thought, contribution and overall determination to find solutions through rigorous, analytical thinking.
Robotics is under-represented in schools, certainly below the university level. It is considered ‘niche’ and ‘expert’. But in truth it offers a whole host of educationally important learning tools that can really help students develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills that they will find so valuable later in life.