is Problem Solving?
are two major types of problem solving – reflective and creative.
Regardless of the type of problem solving a class uses, problem
solving focuses on knowing the issues, considering all possible
factor and finding a solution. Because all ideas are accepted initially,
problem solving allows for finding the best possible solution as
opposed to the easiest solution or the first solution proposed.
is its purpose?
process is used to help students think about a problem without applying
their own pre-conceived ideas. Defining what the problem looks like
is separated from looking at the cause of the problem to prevent
premature judgment. Similarly, clarifying what makes an acceptable
solution is defined before solutions are generated, preventing preconceptions
from driving solutions. Some people argue that problem solving is
the art of reasoning in its purest form. In the classroom, problem
solving is best used to help student understand complex ethical
dilemmas, think about the future or do some strategic planning.
can I do it?
Problem Solving follows a series of tasks. Once you
have broken the students into groups, the students define the problem,
analyze the problem, establish the criteria for evaluating solutions,
propose solutions and take action.
the Problem: List all the characteristics of the problem by
focusing on the symptoms, things affected, and resources or people
related to defining the problem. In the end, pair down the thinking
to a clear definition of the problem to be solved.
the Problem: Use the evidence you collected in step one to
decide why the problem exists. This step is separate from defining
the problem because when the steps are done together it is possible
to prejudge the cause.
Criteria: Set a clear objective for the solution. If the problem
is too hard, break the objectives into two categories – musts
and wants. Don’t discuss solutions yet, just what criteria
a solution must meet.
Solutions: Brainstorm as many different solutions as possible.
Select the one that best meets the objectives you stated as a part
of the criteria for a solution.
action: Write a plan for what to do including all resources
you will need to complete the plan. If possible, implement the plan.
Problem Solving uses the same basic focus, but the
process is less geared towards solutions and more towards a focus
on brainstorming. The focus is on creating ideas rather than solving
a clear existing problem. Sometimes the problem is pre-defined,
and the group must focus on understanding the definition rather
than creating it.
Similar to defining the problem, orientation also focuses on being
sure the group is prepared to work together. The group might take
the time to agree upon behaviors or ways of saying things in addition
to setting the context and symptoms of the issues. The group generates
a series of headings that group the topics they must address.
and Analysis: Decide which headings are relevant or irrelevant.
The group focuses on similarities and differences between ideas
and works on grouping them into like categories. The group asks
how and why a lot, and focuses on the root cause of the problem
in a way that is similar to analyzing the problem.
The group generates as many potential solutions as possible. At
this point, all ideas are considered to be good ones.
Before deciding which solution is the best, the group should leave
the problem for as much time as reasonable. Often several days or
a week is ideal depending on the ages of the students. Leave enough
time to develop distance but not long enough for students to lose
the gist of their earlier work.
and Verification: Start by establishing the criteria for a
good solution, then look at all the brainstormed solutions and try
to combine them to create the solution with the greatest numbers
of positives and the smallest numbers of negatives.
can I adapt it?
you are working in a multi-grade room or on a project that involves
a diverse group, problem solving is a great process for achieving
consensus. You can also use parts of the process to help students
challenge set thinking patterns.