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What is Problem Solving? There 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. What is its purpose? The 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. How can I do it? Reflective 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. Define 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. Analyze 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. Establish Criteria: Set a clear objective for the solution. If the problem is too hard, break the objectives into two categories musts and wants. Dont discuss solutions yet, just what criteria a solution must meet. Preparation 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. Brainstorm: The group generates as many potential solutions as possible. At this point, all ideas are considered to be good ones. (http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/psolving/index.html) Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution. In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

The Steps in Problem-Solving In order to correctly solve a problem, it is important to follow a series of steps. Many researchers refer to this as the problem-solving cycle, which includes developing strategies and organizing knowledge. While this cycle is portrayed sequentially, people rarely follow a rigid series of steps to find a solution. Instead, we often skip steps or even go back through steps multiple times until the desired solution is reached. 1. Identifying the Problem: While it may seem like an obvious step, identifying the problem is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, people might mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it inefficient or even useless.

2. Defining the Problem: After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully define the problem so that it can be solved.

3. Forming a Strategy: The next step is to develop a strategy to solve the problem. The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the individual's unique preferences.

4. Organizing Information: Before coming up with a solution, we need to first organize the available information. What do we know about the problem? What do we not know? The more information that is available, the better prepared we will be to come up with an accurate solution.

5. Allocating Resources: Of course, we don't always have unlimited money, time and other resources to solve a problem. Before you begin to solve a problem, you need to determine how high priority it is. If it is an important problem, it is probably worth allocating more resources to solving it. If, however, it is a fairly unimportant problem, then you do not want to spend too much of your available resources into coming up with a solution. (http://psychology.about.com/od/problemsolving/f/problem-solving-steps.htm)

Problem-solving is the ability to identify and solve problems by applying appropriate skills systematically. Problem-solving is a processan ongoing activity in which we take what we know to discover what we don't know. It involves overcoming obstacles by generating hypo-theses, testing those predictions, and arriving at satisfactory solutions. Problem-solving is, and should be, a very real part of the curriculum. It presupposes that students can take on some of the responsibility for their own learning and can take personal action to solve problems, resolve conflicts, discuss alternatives, and focus on thinking as a vital element of the curriculum. It provides students with opportunities to use their newly acquired knowledge in meaningful, real-life activities and assists them in working at higher levels of thinking Here is a five-stage model that most students can easily memorize and put into action and which has direct applications to many areas of the curriculum as well as everyday life:

Expert Opinion
Here are some techniques that will help students understand the nature of a problem and the conditions that surround it: List all related relevant facts. Make a list of all the given information. Restate the problem in their own words. List the conditions that surround a problem. Describe related known problems.

It's Elementary
For younger students, illustrations are helpful in organizing data, manipulating information, and outlining the limits of a problem and its possible solution(s). Students can use drawings to help them look at a problem from many different perspectives. 1. Understand the problem. It's important that students understand the nature of a problem and its related goals. Encourage students to frame a problem in their own words. 2. Describe any barriers. Students need to be aware of any barriers or constraints that may be preventing them from achieving their goal. In short, what is creating the problem? Encouraging students to verbalize these impediments is always an important step. 3. Identify various solutions. After the nature and parameters of a problem are understood, students will need to select one or more appropriate strategies to help resolve the problem. Students need to understand that they have many strategies available to them and that no single strategy will work for all problems. Here are some problem-solving possibilities: o Create visual images. Many problem-solvers find it useful to create mind pictures of a problem and its potential solutions prior to working on the problem. Mental imaging allows the problem-solvers to map out many dimensions of a problem and see it clearly. o Guesstimate. Give students opportunities to engage in some trial-and-error approaches to problemsolving. It should be understood, however, that this is not a singular approach to problem-solving but rather an attempt to gather some preliminary data. o Create a table. A table is an orderly arrangement of data. When students have opportunities to design and create tables of information, they begin to understand that they can group and organize most data relative to a problem. o Use manipulatives. By moving objects around on a table or desk, students can develop patterns and organize elements of a problem into recognizable and visually satisfying components. o Work backward. It's frequently helpful for students to take the data presented at the end of a problem and use a series of computations to arrive at the data presented at the beginning of the problem. o Look for a pattern. Looking for patterns is an important problem-solving strategy because many problems are similar and fall into predictable patterns. A pattern, by definition, is a regular, systematic repetition and may be numerical, visual, or behavioral. o Create a systematic list. Recording information in list form is a process used quite frequently to map out a plan of attack for defining and solving problems. Encourage students to record their ideas in lists to determine regularities, patterns, or similarities between problem elements.