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**Problem solving skills**

Is it possible to teach problem solving skills?

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**‘Problem solving is a cognitive processing directed at**

achieving a goal where no solution method is obvious to the problem solver’

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**What Skills are Used in Problem**

Solving? Making judgements Analytical skills Decision making Collecting information Planning

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**Survey of Key Skills: Problem-solving**

During the past two years, have you been involved in any activity, whether inside or outside school/college, in which you critically reviewed an idea, concept or theory in which you questioned or cross-examined someone to extract some information? in which you identified the information needed to solve a problem?

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**What are your issues with**

the teaching of Problem-Solving?

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**How do you solve problems?**

What processes do you use? Can you explain them to another person? Do these processes vary depending upon the problem? Use of Cognitive Interviewing…...

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**Problem solving skills - what do we know about people who are good at it?**

What is an expert? Someone who knows the domain thoroughly - solving problems comes naturally? Someone who can think of things to do even when no clear solutions suggests itself?

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**Expert problem solvers**

Have a better memory for relevant details in the problem Classify problems according to their underlying principles Use well-established procedures Work forwards towards a goal (rather than backwards)

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**Model of Learning Content Understanding Collaboration Problem-solving**

Communication Self-regulation

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**Requirements for Problem-Solving**

Domain-dependent problem-solving strategies Content Understanding Self-regulation Metacognition Motivation Self-efficacy Planning Effort Self-monitoring

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Engage: I want to and I can Read the problem (and all the information) Listen to the tutor Learn about the situation that poses the problem Motivation Overcome panic

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Understand the problem: define Put time in to defining the problem: Discuss the problem Ask questions Can it be visualised? Restate the problem in your own words Explain the problem to someone else

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Plan a procedure to solve the problem Prior experience? Data available Content knowledge Patterns Estimation Alternate solutions Feasibility

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Collection of required data & knowledge May be necessary to reach a solution on imperfect knowledge

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Select preferred solution: use and evaluate Check each step Can you determine clearly that each step is correct? Can you prove that each step is correct?

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**Understanding the Process:**

‘How to Solve it’ Reflect on the process Are you certain you solved the problem? Can you check the result and your argument? Can use alternate solutions? What did you actually do? Can you explain this to another? Can you use the result &/or method for another problem?

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**Defining the problem Collect all the relevant information**

Clarify background issues What are the constraints? Are there sub-problems that can be dealt with separately? Can the problem now be formulated?

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Brainstorming Brainstorm to produce a wide range of possible solutions to the problem Record uncritically/no comments at this stage Use a group of people Divergent thinking

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Information required In biosciences we can do experiments which are carefully designed, implemented and controlled There is a vast amount of information in the literature Collate the data accumulated - are there trends and relationships that help?

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Bringing back the data Collection of the data needs to be followed by presentation to the group Person doing this will need to digest the information Person doing this will need some presentation skills Critical thinking skills required

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**Do we have a preferred solution?**

What criteria can be devised? Evaluate each possible solution in the light of these criteria Reject solutions that do not meet these criteria Judgements - strengths and weaknesses Now have one or two solutions that meet the criteria?

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Reflection How efficient was the process, how could it be made more efficient next time? Were the problems in definitions, finding information, understanding information? How are critical faculties increasing? Did the group work effectively? What would you change next time?

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**Which of these skills can be taught?**

Finding information - vocabulary, library/web skills Reading the literature - format and conventions used in papers Presenting information - how to organise data, prepare graphs and tables, talk to a group, make a poster Practice at all of these will increase critical skills

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**Developing problem-solving skills**

Make tacit processes explicit Get students to talk about the problem Provide guided practice Ensure that the component procedures are learned

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**Problem solving skills**

Basic knowledge of facts and ways of doing things Metacognition - how one uses what one knows Heuristics - strategies and techniques (find an easier, related problem) Beliefs - this problem can be solved (positive attitude)

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**Understanding the problem**

Discuss it, ask questions Draw a picture Restate in your own words/tell someone else about it Restate the information given Restate the question

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**Cunning plan Have we ever done one like this before?**

Do we have of the data needed? Is there a pattern in the data? Construct a table or a picture? What is the answer likely to be? Would an experiment help?

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**Reflection Describe how we did it Which techniques were most useful?**

Can you explain how you did it to someone else? Is there another way of doing it? Does the solution raise any interesting problems?

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**Primary Issues for Students**

Have confidence in your skill Be able to describe/visualise the problem in your own terms Be able to describe your thought processes Be able to identify issues, set goals and define problems Be organised and systematic, with frequent monitoring Be creative and don’t be afraid to try different avenues Identify criteria and use these criteria to prioritise Access and use knowledge astutely

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**Strategies and Good Practice in Developing Problem-solving Skills**

Embedded or separate? Total embedding Explicit embedding Parallel development of skills

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**Strategies and Good Practice in Developing Problem-solving Skills**

Group or individual? Problem-solving skills will be discovered and recognised with the group, and drawn upon When there is a time limit, individuals will be faster! Groups provide opportunity for greater innovation- BRAINSTORMING The larger the group, the more ideas available The larger the group, the less the involvement Individuals more likely to show vulnerability and doubt

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**Problem-solving Skills:**

Assessment Problem recognition tasks Examples of common problems are presented. Students are asked to identify the basic type of problem represented Recognition of problem type is the first step to solving the problem Appropriate in quantitative and technical courses, but could also be used to evaluate global problem-solving skills

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**Problem-solving Skills:**

Assessment What’s the Principle? Once a type of problem is correctly identified, students must identify which of the principles involved in the class must be applied to solve the problem Assists in the understanding that general types of problems can be solved with the individual principles involved in class Appropriate for traditional science and technology courses and humanities and social sciences subjects

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**Problem-solving Skills:**

Assessment Documented Problem Solutions Asks students to keep track of the steps involved in solving particular types of problems Lets faculty understand how students approach problems as well as understand how they comprehend and describe problem-solving procedures Useful in subjects that involve mathematical or numerical processing and analysis

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**Problem-solving Skills:**

Assessment Background Knowledge Probe Questionnaires that examine students’ knowledge of the subject as they enter a module Useful as a stand-alone method to determine the most appropriate level to begin instruction Content-driven. Can be used to indicate significant material

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