In professional and education and indeed in general everyday life, we encounter a myriad of problems that requires us to solve. A problem, therefore, can be described as a gap that separates the present state from the desired state (Davidson & Sterberg, 2003). This state produces on one hand a degree of uncertainty and actions towards looking for a solution on the other. Problem-solving is the process of looking for the appropriate course of action to reach the desired goals. Strategies to problem-solving provoke a learner to adopt mental structures that lead to problem solutions. One such strategy is of the OECD-PISA report (DuBrin, 2006) described below.
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Stages in a problem-solving strategy
The first stage involves understanding the problem at hand. At this stage, enough time should be spent because it is important. This involves an understanding of the actual problem and all its aspects and then defining or describing it completely. It includes an understanding of the problem text; diagrams; formulas and tabular information; making deductions from them; and comparing information from other sources. Concepts should also be well comprehended. Secondly, characterization of the problem is done. This encompasses identifying the problem variables and their relationships; deciding which ones are relevant; building hypotheses and critically analyzing background information established. At this stage, analysis of related problems and how they were solved is very important as it gives insight into the problem at hand and how to go about solving it. One should be careful to consider a related problem otherwise, misidentification of wrong related problems can occur which can lead to wrong resolution strategies.
The third step is solving the problem. This stage includes making decisions, designing a structure to meet certain established goals, identifying and proposing a resolution. Previously identified parts such as a hypothesis, variables, and their relationships, concepts, and information is brought together to form a whole. Various approaches to solve the problem decided on are related to the tasks ahead completely such as the top-down, bottom-up approaches.
Reflecting on the solution is the next stage in problem-solving. This includes scrutinizing the solution, providing additional information, or elucidating and analyzing the solutions from different viewpoints so that they become more acceptable. This stage attempts to reorganizing and optimizing the solution. At this stage, we ask ourselves whether we would solve the problem the same way next time, how other people solved it, and the different viewpoints of the solution. Finally, communicating the problem solution is done. This stage will involve choosing the best media and representation for articulating and communicating solutions we have come up with to an outside audience. The role of communicating is to help others to detect problems that did not have solutions or were not understood, give the audience to reflect on the solution, and make inputs into it for the purpose of improving it and adding to the pool of knowledge about the problematic aspects that already exists.
Problem-solving is the process of looking for the appropriate course of action to reach the desired goals. Strategies to problem-solving provoke a learner to adopt mental structures that lead to problem solutions. There are various stages to a problem-solving strategy which include: understanding the problem; characterizing the problem; solving the problem; Reflecting on the solution; and finally, communicating the problem solution (Pennings, 1986).
Davidson, J. E & Sterberg, R. J. (2003). The Psychology of Problem Solving. Cambridge Univesity Press.
DuBrin, A. J. (2006). Applying Psychology: Individual & Organizational Effectiveness. Academic Internet Publishers Incorporated.
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Pennings, J. M. (1986). Decision making: an organizational behavior approach. Markus Wiener Publishers.