A1 Journal article (refereed)
What makes the difference : PIAAC as a resource for understanding the problem-solving skills of Europe's higher-education adults (2019)

Hämäläinen, R., De Wever, B., Nissinen, K., & Cincinnato, S. (2019). What makes the difference : PIAAC as a resource for understanding the problem-solving skills of Europe's higher-education adults. Computers and Education, 129, 27-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.10.013

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Hämäläinen, Raija; De Wever, Bram; Nissinen, Kari; Cincinnato, Sebastiano

Journal or series: Computers and Education

ISSN: 0360-1315

eISSN: 1873-782X

Publication year: 2019

Volume: 129

Issue number: 0

Pages range: 27-36

Publisher: Pergamon Press

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.10.013

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/60108


The ever-evolving technological landscape is challenging adults' problem-solving skills. The central goal of higher education (HE) is to guarantee a high level of know-how, which is in line with the changing demands of technology at work and in everyday life. This study builds on European data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to understand adults' (N = 53,407) skills for solving problems in technology-rich environments. The study provides insight into the socio-demographic, work-related, and everyday factors that are associated with a strong and a weak problem-solving performance. The results indicate that HE adults stand out from adults with other educational backgrounds. Having a higher education degree is related with strong problem-solving skills. Still, it is rather surprising that only 15% of HE adults are strong problem-solvers and that as many as 35% can be considered weak problem-solvers. Since this century requires citizens to possess more and more skills to resolve problems in technology-rich environments, this study identifies the indicators for problem-solving skills differences. Namely, this article presents the models that predict problem-solving performance on the basis of theoretical assumptions as well as empirical support. Our results indicate that HE adults' strong or weak performance seems to be associated with socio-demographic factors (especially age, gender, parental education, and native speaking skills), as well as work-related and everyday-life factors. The models presented in this study may be helpful when developing HE practices and new approaches to foster HE adults' problem-solving skills to meet the needs of technological advancement at work and in everyday life.

Keywords: problem solving; learning; adults; technology; on-the-job learning; informal learning; tertiary education; adult education; socioeconomic factors

Free keywords: problem-solving; technology-rich environments; higher education; large-scale assessment; work-based and everyday life learning; PIAAC; Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies

Contributing organizations

Related projects

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 13:41