Abstract for: The Attempt to Boost Stock Flow Performance by Using a General Problem Solving Strategy and a Reappearing Gender Effect

It was over 16 years ago that Booth Sweeney and Sterman (2000) first wrote about the poor performance of well educated adults on simple dynamic systems. Boosting performance in those stock flow tasks has been a research topic ever since but still lacks a resounding success. A recent study looked at the impact of using a general compared to a conventional problem solving strategy when confronted with mathematical and economic problems (Youssef-Shallala, Ayres, Schubert & Sweller, 2014). This study gave the idea to adapt this manipulation and to apply it to stock flow problems. In a think aloud setting participants solved four drawing stock flow tasks and one that was followed by four questions, using either a conventional (CPS) or a general problem solving (GPS) strategy. No significant improvement could be found considering the used strategy alone. However, the average solution rate for the four drawing problems reached almost 70% which is far higher than in previous studies. Men even averaged on over 90%, thus probably reaching a ceiling effect. Women performed significantly worse but seemed to profit from the GPS strategy. Overall solution rates dropped in the question task. No strategy advantage was found but the gender effect remained.