Why is Problem Solving Important in Child Development?
- Skills Spotlight
All students can learn how to become adept problem solvers! Discover why problem solving is so important in child development.
Children develop problem-solving skills at different rates; nevertheless, it is imperative that children learn to tackle problems with grit and creativity, especially as they learn to cope with setbacks or resolve conflict. Moreover, problem solving is one of the most important skills children can develop, because it prepares them to face increasingly complex academic and interpersonal issues as they mature.
Experts agree that the ability to meet challenges confidently is “a critical skill for school readiness.” In many cases, children learn by watching parents or caregivers solve problems.
This article will explore three benefits of learning problem-solving skills at school:
Improved Academic Performance
The earlier children begin solving problems, the more ready they are to deal with bigger challenges as they mature.
By introducing problem solving skills in the classroom, children learn to think in terms of manageable steps as they:
1. Identify Problems
2. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
3. Test Appropriate Solutions
4. Analyze Results
By viewing problems as opportunities to grow, children broaden their understanding while building confidence.
The classroom is a safe, controlled environment, with experienced teachers who direct students as they hone problem-solving skills.
Good schools know that problem solving is important in child development. Therefore, we incorporate problem-solving exercises into a wide range of classes. Marlborough’s goal is to ignite intellectual inquiry by combining problem solving with creativity, collaboration, and communication, thereby empowering our students to become actively engaged global citizens .
We ask our middle school girls to solve various types of problems; thus, they develop flexibility. Since our students regularly practice problem solving, they dramatically improve their academic performance.
Problem-Solving Skills Improve Academic Performance
One reason that problem solving is important in child development is that it teaches discernment, helping young people distinguish what is a solvable problem.
Problem solving also develops grit, a trait that successful students routinely display.
Often, it takes an entire team to solve a problem. Since it can feel intimidating to collaborate or ask for help , the classroom is a perfect space to take risks. Together, students learn how to ask determining questions, such as:
Why is this situation so challenging?
Do I know how to address the problem?
Who can help me find a workable solution?
Students who learn how to solve problems have a deeper understanding of cause and effect. Teachers often urge students to look for patterns or make predictions. Problem-solving skills, then, boost reflective, critical thinking.
At Marlborough, we foster practical, analytical thinking through individual and collaborative school projects. Here are two middle school elective courses that show how problem-solving skills lead to academic success:
Middle School Debate teaches the art of research, deliberation, and argument. Students consider both sides of a question, discussing realistic solutions, and presenting their findings with clarity and eloquence.
Crime Scene Investigation: CSI Marlborough synthesizes biology and chemistry as students learn about forensic science. Students systematically solve problems by investigating a fictional crime, securing the crime scene, gathering detailed evidence, testing hypotheses, identifying potential suspects, then solving the case.
Problem-Solving Skills Build Confidence
Solving problems means making choices. Typically, effective problem-solving skills result in “happier, more confident, and more independent” individuals.
When children tackle problems on their own, or in a group, they become resilient. They learn to look at challenges from a fresh perspective. Therefore, they take more calculated risks.
Problem solving is important in child development because confident, capable children usually grow into confident, capable adults. <
If students practice problem solving consistently, they can develop greater situational and social awareness. Additionally, they learn to manage time and develop patience.
As students mature, problems they face become more complex:
How do I make lasting friendships?
How can I bring justice to my community?
Which career suits my abilities and interests best?
Marlborough recognizes the need for practice; no one masters problem solving overnight. Consequently, we offer a wide range of courses that teach middle school girls how to solve problems in the real world.
Here are a few middle school electives that focus on critical thinking, thus enhancing students’ confidence:
Makers’ Space 1.0 introduces middle school girls to original, school projects that they design, then create with hand and power tools.
Tinkering and Making with Technology invites girls to play with electronics + code. They learn the basics of electronics, ultimately completing an interactive and/or wearable technology project.
Drawing and Animating with Code uses text-based computer programming to teach girls to write code and create computer graphics drawings or animations.
As students develop their problem-solving skills, they learn to rely on independent, creative thinking, which enhances their sense of independence; these skills, then, prepare students for life and future careers.
Problem-Solving Skills Prepare Students for Future Careers
Children who learn how to solve problems when they are young tend to appreciate lifelong learning. They are curious, motivated, and innovative.
Employers want new hires to think imaginatively, especially since many problems that society faces today are new.
The push for school STEM programs in schools reflects this trend. For instance, coding requires students to envision a goal, then identify logical steps, and plan ahead. Coding also requires persistence, which means that students must be able to power through failure.
Notwithstanding the need for personal excellence, employers also really want team members. Taking classes that encourage group problem solving can be invaluable as students look ahead to college and careers.
As a result, our students participate in academic teams that build leadership through problem-solving activities, including these middle school elective courses:
VR and Animation is a project-based class that invites middle school girls to create a virtual reality (VR) theme park attraction with interactive artwork and digital designs.
Robotics classes allow middle school girls to design, build, program, and operate a robot. Our students also participate in the national FIRST Tech Challenge.
Marlborough is preparing girls to enter the workforce. Problem solving is important in child development because it trains young people to think independently and to collaborate. Marlborough’s graduates are ready to enter adulthood because they know how to solve problems.
Why Choose Marlborough?
Marlborough serves girls in grades 7 through 12. We are a private, college-preparatory secondary school, conveniently located in the heart of Los Angeles, California.
Our goal is to ignite intellectual inquiry and to build the problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills that our students will need to innovate, invent, and lead in college and beyond.
If you want your daughter to become a curious, agile thinker, consider Marlborough. We will enhance your daughter’s problem-solving skills, helping her gain an academic edge as she builds confidence and prepares for the future.
Want to know more about the Marlborough experience?
Contact us today
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21st Century Skills: Why is problem-solving the need of the hour for school students?
The 21st century is about new challenges and problems which require a new set of skills. The world around us is evolving rapidly, and children need to learn essential skills such as critical reasoning , problem solving and critical thinking . Many studies have shown that children today need to develop these skills to solve key real-world problems . Even the honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, talked about the importance of 21st-century skills and the addition of these skills in the school curriculum according to New Education Policy 2020. Because of the importance of these skills, many education institutes are trying to incorporate these skills into their curriculum. However, there are still many areas that need to be developed in this field.
HCL, a $10.1 bn global enterprise has launched a program HCL Jigsaw – India’s Premier Critical Reasoning Platform, which assesses students on key 21st-century skills with a focus on solving real world problems using problem-solving and critical thinking . HCL Jigsaw believes that the best age to learn these basic skills is during school time, when children are open to new challenges and opportunities. Therefore, the program is explicitly targeting students in grades 6-9.
This article highlights the importance of problem-solving as the need of the hour for school students , tips to improve problem-solving skills and a few creative problem-solving activities for kids.
Why is Problem-Solving The Need of The Hour for Students?
In the past, students followed a mechanical progression in education. Every year posed new challenges and concepts for them as they undertook a standardized, one-size-fits-all curriculum and examinations. Education was concerned with getting the correct answer and scoring high grades, to reach the next level. There was little room for out of the box thinking that considered innovative solutions. The more information students could retain and regurgitate, the better equipped they were for an exam, ultimately translating to their real-life success. As a result, students were kept astray from practical skills and complex real-world problems they would eventually face after finishing their formative years in school and college.
The 21st-century problems require both theoretical as well as practical knowledge to be solved. students need to think out of the box to find suitable solutions to new and upcoming challenges. Before we talk about the importance of problem-solving skills for students, let us understand what exactly 21st-century problem-solving skill means.
Problem-solving is a systematic process that involves critical reasoning and thinking to find a suitable solution to problems to achieve desired objectives. Following are the reasons why problem-solving is essential for school students:
- It helps students distinguish between solvable issues and problems that cannot be solved.
- It is necessary for preparing school students to face complex interpersonal and academic problems.
- Students who learn problem-solving skills often have a deeper understanding of causality.
- When children solve problems individually or in a group, they become more resilient. They learn to look at problems from a new perspective. Therefore, it makes them capable of taking more calculated risks.
- Problem-solving is essential to a child’s development because confident and productive children usually grow up as successful and confident adults.
- When students practice problem solving consistently, they can develop better social and situational awareness. They will also learn to manage time properly and develop patience.
- Students who learn to solve problems from childhood are curious, resourceful, and determined.
- Employers always demand individuals who can work in a group and can jump out of their inherent thinking mode, especially since many of the challenges that the world faces today are unique and new.
The World Economic Forum has also recognized problem-solving skills as one of the ten essential 21st-century skills . A focus on problem-solving during the school years helps students be more resourceful, confident, and think methodically. It enables students to find constructive and unique solutions to the problems of current times. Parents and teachers need to focus on these skills for their child’s overall development
Some Creative Problem-Solving Activities for Children
Impromptu Skits: Thisactivity involves creating slips for different real-world situations like angry customers, fraud in the company, etc., and then ask the kids to pick any slip and enact a skit on the given situation.
Tower Building: This group activity requires the group to make the tallest tower using building blocks within the given time.
Alphabet Animal Game: Ask the kids to make a big circle and shout various animal names alphabetically one by one. If any kid takes more than 5 seconds, then that kid is out, and the circle gets smaller in size.
Tips to Improve Problem Solving, Creative Thinking and Critical Reasoning Skills
Following are a few tips of improve the problem-solving skills of school studentsand make them more resourceful and competent individuals to solve 21st-century problems:
- Let children think outside the box and find unique and creative solutions to challenging problems.
- Encourage decision-making by empowering them to handle different situations.
- Explain the benefits of group work and invite them to participate in group activities.
- Let children express their opinions and ideas in public and avoid intervening as it might hamper their confidence.
- Try asking students open-ended questions and problems as it helps children learn creative thinking skills.
- Enroll with HCL Jigsaw to teach children essential group activity problem-solving, critical reasoning, and creative thinking skills. This will help prepare confident and competent individuals who are ready to face real-world 21st-century problems.
HCL Jigsaw aspires to build a community of young problem-solvers from Grades 6–9 through a pan-India problem-solving assessment program. Students are judged on three core competencies within problem-solving: how well they define a problem, communicate it, and think critically about synthesizing information, drawing conclusions, and proposing solutions. Learn more about the exciting learning journey offered by HCL Jigsaw and Enroll now before July 31, 2022 for this unique opportunity.
10 Tips for Enhancing Your Child’s Critical Reasoning Skills
What teachers and parents must know about the hcl jigsaw platform.
HCL Jigsaw is a competitive platform aimed at helping you assess critical reasoning skills and putting them on an exciting lifelong learning journey. Designed by the industry’s best minds, the program includes opportunities to win exciting prizes and creating innovative solutions.
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Importance of Problem-solving in Child Development
The development of problem-solving skills is an essential aspect of child development. Learning how to approach and solve problems, both at home and school, can affect the quality of a child’s relationships with others. Problem-solving also encourages creativity, which is key to success later on in life. In this post, we will discuss the importance of problem-solving for children.
When do children develop problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills often start to emerge during the preschool years. In many cases, children obtain these skills by observing adults who model their own behavior as they face various situations and come up with solutions. These role models help children understand how their actions can affect problems and their outcomes.
The importance of problem-solving for children
One crucial aspect of problem-solving is identifying a problem at its earliest stage so that one can prevent it from escalating into something more serious. For example, if children have a dispute with a playmate, they need to learn about the importance of sharing and taking turns. This kind of knowledge is necessary in order for children to develop healthy relationships with others.
Furthermore, problem-solving plays a vital role in children's cognitive development. It encourages creativity because it allows kids to view situations from different perspectives. Sometimes creative solutions are better than more obvious ones when addressing problems.
Even though problem-solving plays a critical role throughout child development, it's also important to note that not every problem requires the same type of solution. For example, children wouldn't use the same approach with a broken toy as they would for completing academic assignments. Therefore, it's helpful to keep in mind that there are different types of problems, and each has an associated function or purpose.
The problems that children typically face can be divided into two categories: physical and social.
Physical problems include situations such as getting food when we’re hungry. On the other hand, social problems may involve conflicts with friends or siblings, or how to respond if one of your parents is upset. Understanding these different types of conflicts can help children understand which type of problem-solving strategy will work best depending on the context.
Learning how to solve problems
While learning how to solve problems is an integral part of child development, this process isn't always easy, especially in complex situations with several obstacles. In complicated situations, a slower approach is often best. This will allow children to explore different options and weigh the pros and cons.
Being able to settle differences with others helps children establish positive relationships. Moreover, problem-solving encourages creativity, which is another important element of growing into a successful adult. Understanding different types of problems will help children come up with solutions.
Why are problem-solving skills important for kids?
There are many reasons why problem-solving skills are essential for kids. When children can effectively face and address conflicts, they exercise their imaginations, creativity, critical thinking skills , and logic in order to address a difficult situation. Over time, children who are given opportunities to practice their problem-solving skills will grow more confident in their abilities.
When confronted with new problems, children can work out solutions through reasoning, rather than relying on others for help. This can result in higher self-confidence. If children have poor social competence, they may find it hard to form relationships with others.
Kids who lack academic motivation are less likely to succeed in school, while possessing strong problem-solving skills will encourage them to engage more in the learning process.
Problem-solving can help children adapt better in a variety of settings. They'll also have the ability to face challenges with determination.
Problem-solving plays a vital role in child development. This important skill is not just coming up with a solution. Rather, it involves using one's creativity, thinking through possibilities, reasoning through potential plans or pathways, and using logic to address complex problems or questions.
Additionally, confronting problems with confidence can help children feel better about themselves and have higher self-esteem. It is also vital for academic success later on. If children lack social competence, they may find it hard to form relationships with others.
Learning how to problem-solve requires practice, which can help boost motivation and improve academic performance too!
At Mrs. Myers' Learning Lab , we know the importance of problem-solving during child development. We offer programs that instill creativity and analytical skills. Call us today for more information!
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Benefits of Problem-Solving in the K-12 Classroom
Posted October 5, 2022 by Miranda Marshall
From solving complex algebra problems to investigating scientific theories, to making inferences about written texts, problem-solving is central to every subject explored in school. Even beyond the classroom, problem-solving is ranked among the most important skills for students to demonstrate on their resumes, with 82.9% of employers considering it a highly valued attribute. On an even broader scale, students who learn how to apply their problem-solving skills to the issues they notice in their communities – or even globally – have the tools they need to change the future and leave a lasting impact on the world around them.
Problem-solving can be taught in any content area and can even combine cross-curricular concepts to connect learning from all subjects. On top of building transferrable skills for higher education and beyond, read on to learn more about five amazing benefits students will gain from the inclusion of problem-based learning in their education:
- Problem-solving is inherently student-centered.
Student-centered learning refers to methods of teaching that recognize and cater to students’ individual needs. Students learn at varying paces, have their own unique strengths, and even further, have their own interests and motivations – and a student-centered approach recognizes this diversity within classrooms by giving students some degree of control over their learning and making them active participants in the learning process.
Incorporating problem-solving into your curriculum is a great way to make learning more student-centered, as it requires students to engage with topics by asking questions and thinking critically about explanations and solutions, rather than expecting them to absorb information in a lecture format or through wrote memorization.
- Increases confidence and achievement across all school subjects.
As with any skill, the more students practice problem-solving, the more comfortable they become with the type of critical and analytical thinking that will carry over into other areas of their academic careers. By learning how to approach concepts they are unfamiliar with or questions they do not know the answers to, students develop a greater sense of self-confidence in their ability to apply problem-solving techniques to other subject areas, and even outside of school in their day-to-day lives.
The goal in teaching problem-solving is for it to become second nature, and for students to routinely express their curiosity, explore innovative solutions, and analyze the world around them to draw their own conclusions.
- Encourages collaboration and teamwork.
Since problem-solving often involves working cooperatively in teams, students build a number of important interpersonal skills alongside problem-solving skills. Effective teamwork requires clear communication, a sense of personal responsibility, empathy and understanding for teammates, and goal setting and organization – all of which are important throughout higher education and in the workplace as well.
- Increases metacognitive skills.
Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” because it refers to a person’s ability to analyze and understand their own thought processes. When making decisions, metacognition allows problem-solvers to consider the outcomes of multiple plans of action and determine which one will yield the best results.
Higher metacognitive skills have also widely been linked to improved learning outcomes and improved studying strategies. Metacognitive students are able to reflect on their learning experiences to understand themselves and the world around them better.
- Helps with long-term knowledge retention.
Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how they reached their conclusions at the time of learning, by sharing their ideas and facts they have researched, helps reinforce their understanding of the subject matter.
Problem-solving scenarios in which students participate in small-group discussions can be especially beneficial, as this discussion gives students the opportunity to both ask and answer questions about the new concepts they’re exploring.
At all grade levels, students can see tremendous gains in their academic performance and emotional intelligence when problem-solving is thoughtfully planned into their learning.
Interested in helping your students build problem-solving skills, but aren’t sure where to start? Future Problem Solving Problem International (FPSPI) is an amazing academic competition for students of all ages, all around the world, that includes helpful resources for educators to implement in their own classrooms!
Learn more about this year’s competition season from this recorded webinar: https://youtu.be/AbeKQ8_Sm8U and/or email [email protected] to get started!
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The Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) was founded in 2012 to help transform learning into an exciting challenge for all students. We exist to support students in realizing the full potential of their future.
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Problem-solving skills are an important factor in academic success.
Elizabeth Gutierrez, Michigan State University Extension - May 11, 2012
Updated from an original article written by [email protected]
Parents and caregivers can ensure their children's success by teaching and modeling effective problem-solving at home.
Helping your child learn how to problem solve is a critical skill for school readiness. Parents and caregivers are a child’s first and most important teacher; therefore, modeling good problem solving skills is very important. Children learn by watching parents and caregivers handle different situations and solve problems. If a parent handles problems by yelling, throwing things, hitting, grabbing or using other unacceptable strategies, a child will learn to do the same thing.
Often, adults will prevent their children from seeing all conflicts or disagreements. Remember, it is important for children to see adults negotiate differences, compromise and resolve conflicts. Learning to negotiate differences in a constructive way and allowing children to see how this is done is very effective and important. If parent and caregivers handle these situations privately, there is no example for the child/children to learn from.
Children can learn how to be assertive verbally as a result of seeing and listening to how adults resolve conflict. Another simple way a child can learn how to be assertive verbally is by role-playing with puppets and through pretend play with an adult. When using these techniques, it is important to help your child think of constructive ways to respond to different situations. By using puppets and role-play, your child can also learn about how others may feel in specific situations. When using these techniques, it is important not to criticize or label the child for past misbehavior.
There are some basic steps to problem solving from Incredible Years :
- Identify the problem.
- List the possible solutions or courses of action.
- Weigh the possible solutions.
- Choose a solution to try.
- Put the solution into practice.
- Evaluate the solution.
Using effective problem solving techniques will help children avoid conflict with others in a school setting and in their everyday lives. It will also strengthen children’s beginning empathy skills and help them learn more positive attributions about another person’s intentions. Effective problem solving skills is essential for academic and social success.
For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension . For more information, visit https://extension.msu.edu . To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters . To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts , or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
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Pat Ugwu's Blog
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Importance of Problem Solving Skills in Education
An essential objective of education is to teach students how to think more productively when addressing issues by combining creative and critical thinking (to develop ideas) with precise information (about the truth of reality). According to specialists in both professions, both modes of thinking (creative and critical) are necessary for a well-rounded productive thinker. This is a great importance of problem solving skills in education.
As children grow older, they learn that not all problems have simple solutions. Whether they need to find the best solution for a project in school or navigate a situation in their personal lives, creative problem-solving skills can help prepare children to face challenges that require them to think outside the box. We previously wrote some problem solving interview questions .
Let us now highlight the importance of problem solving skills in education one after another, and the role teachers should play to help their students. This article is also good for those who want to learn problem solving methods of teaching .
Importance of Problem Solving Skills
1. critical thinking.
This signifies the ability to break down a complex problem and analyzes its essential characteristics. That skill will make it simpler to find logical answers to practically any difficulty. Being able to navigate through and arrange that heap of smaller amounts of knowledge makes it easier for them to tackle difficulties. It also keeps your children from being overwhelmed when a large obstacle is placed in front of them.
By asking questions, you may encourage your students to exercise critical thinking. Open-ended inquiries, in particular, encourage students to look outside the box and assess the circumstances.
Teach children to investigate different explanations for why something is the way it is. What makes the sky blue? Why do plants turn green? Encourage their curiosity.
2. Creative Thinking
In the context of problem solving, creative thinking is the ability to consider several alternative explanations and solutions. It is the generation of fresh ideas and the discovery of novel solutions to problems. Or being open to multiple perspectives on an object or circumstance.
Reflective exercises are the best way to foster creative thinking. Before you can think creatively about anything, you must first comprehend it. This allows you to think more creatively and remove any preconceptions or biases.
Get your student’s opinions on issues that may have diverse solutions or reasons for occurring. Make it a routine for them to discuss ideas, participate in story-telling activities, and read books. All of these things contribute to broadening one’s thinking and exercising one’s creative muscles.
3. Encourage Independence
It is critical that you maintain your function as an observer, supporter, or facilitator. Take a step back and allow your children to come up with their own ideas. Keep an eye on what’s going on while protecting their safety and well-being.
As an observer, you foster independence by taking a step back and observing your child tackle the problem in their own unique way. It may take longer than if you rushed in, but allowing kids to their own devices may do a lot for developing their problem-solving abilities.
Appreciate and acknowledge your student’s attempts to help them. Create an environment in which people may openly and successfully communicate their thoughts without fear of being judged. Give kids chances to play and solve issues on their own. Instead of instructing them what to do, encourage them to express themselves by brainstorming things that they might enjoy.
4. Mental Health
Another importance of problem solving skills in education is mental health benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to children’s mental health across the country, in addition to generating school closures and irregular access to education and extracurricular activities, which have resulted in learning losses.
Many parents and instructors have indicated that their pupils are experiencing periods of sorrow and depression since they are unable to readily socialize in person with their friends.
Exploring several solutions to an issue teaches kids to understand they have more agency than they previously believed. It may also encourage children to better express any difficulties that are bothering them.
5. Future Advantages
Finally, the importance of problem solving skills in education can help prepare pupils for a future in which people from all industries will be asked to solve issues that do not yet exist. They will need to go beyond merely possessing the most up-to-date technology, software, or specialist expertise to use these resources in a way that emphasizes developing successful solutions.
In other words, they will need to use problem solving skills to embrace the unknown and reframe nerve-racking uncertainty as a learning opportunity. You may appreciate our post on hybrid learning models .
Problem solving skills, especially when utilized in a group setting, may foster pleasant experiences by promoting team input. Instead of stressing about who gets credit for a particular idea, the answer to issues becomes the result of teamwork.
How to measure problem solving skills
As we are concluding this post on the importance of problem solving skills. Personality and cognitive tests are mostly used to measure problem solving skills.
The emergence of personality testing in the twentieth century was motivated by a desire to optimize employee potential. Personality tests aid in the identification of workplace trends, significant features, and personalities, as well as the assessment of how people may respond to certain situations.
Cognitive ability test
A pre-employment aptitude test evaluates a person’s abilities such as critical thinking, verbal reasoning, arithmetic ability, problem-solving, decision-making, and so on, all of which are indicative of a person’s intelligence quotient (IQ). The test results give information regarding work performance. It also evaluates current and prospective employees for various job levels.
Related Problem Solving FAQs
What are problem solving skills in the workplace.
- Communication skills.
- Decision-making skills.
- Listening skills.
- Analytical thinking skills.
- Creative thinking skills.
You may like to read our post on the benefits of collaborative learning .
Can problem solving skills be taught?
Yes, problem solving skills can be taught and many teachers have done that in the past and are still doing it. Teachers are required to plan and give students constant training on problem solving skills.
Problem solving skills vs critical thinking?
In contrast to critical thinking, which is a lifetime activity used to develop your thinking process, problem-solving is a collection of strategies you employ expressly to identify successful answers. You may use it to fix problems as they arise or to plan ahead of time for problems that may arise.
As we round off the importance of problem solving skills in education post, it is crucial to note that our children benefit from problem-solving skills at all phases of their lives. So teachers should put their best foot forward and assist youngsters in acquiring these 21st-century applicable skill sets for a massively successful and joyful life ahead! Please check our post on technology-based interactive teaching strategies .
Pat Ugwu De Second (AKA Uncle Patech) is an educational technology (edtech) expert and digital literacy coach.
Because he teaches teachers how to teach with technology, Pat is fondly called "teacher of teachers" wink. Connect with him on Social @UnclePatech
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What is problem solving and why is it important
By Wayne Stottler , Kepner-Tregoe
- Problem Solving & Decision Making Over time, developing and refining problem solving skills provides the ability to solve increasingly complex problems Learn More
For over 60 years, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping companies across industries and geographies to develop and mature their problem-solving capabilities through KT’s industry leading approach to training and the implementation of best practice processes. Considering that problem solving is a part of almost every person’s daily life (both at home and in the workplace), it is surprising how often we are asked to explain what problem solving is and why it is important.
Problem solving is at the core of human evolution. It is the methods we use to understand what is happening in our environment, identify things we want to change and then figure out the things that need to be done to create the desired outcome. Problem solving is the source of all new inventions, social and cultural evolution, and the basis for market based economies. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning.
If this problem-solving thing is so important to daily life, what is it?
Problem-solving is the process of observing what is going on in your environment; identifying things that could be changed or improved; diagnosing why the current state is the way it is and the factors and forces that influence it; developing approaches and alternatives to influence change; making decisions about which alternative to select; taking action to implement the changes; and observing impact of those actions in the environment.
Each step in the problem-solving process employs skills and methods that contribute to the overall effectiveness of influencing change and determine the level of problem complexity that can be addressed. Humans learn how to solve simple problems from a very early age (learning to eat, make coordinated movements and communicate) – and as a person goes through life problem-solving skills are refined, matured and become more sophisticated (enabling them to solve more difficult problems).
Problem-solving is important both to individuals and organizations because it enables us to exert control over our environment.
Fixing things that are broken
Some things wear out and break over time, others are flawed from day-1. Personal and business environments are full of things, activities, interactions and processes that are broken or not operating in the way they are desired to work. Problem-solving gives us a mechanism for identifying these things, figuring out why they are broken and determining a course of action to fix them.
Humans have learned to identify trends and developed an awareness of cause-and-effect relationships in their environment. These skills not only enable us to fix things when they break but also anticipate what may happen in the future (based on past-experience and current events). Problem-solving can be applied to the anticipated future events and used to enable action in the present to influence the likelihood of the event occurring and/or alter the impact if the event does occur.
Individuals and organizations do not exist in isolation in the environment. There is a complex and ever-changing web of relationships that exist and as a result, the actions of one person will often have either a direct impact on others or an indirect impact by changing the environment dynamics. These interdependencies enable humans to work together to solve more complex problems but they also create a force that requires everyone to continuously improve performance to adapt to improvements by others. Problem-solving helps us understand relationships and implement the changes and improvements needed to compete and survive in a continually changing environment.
Problem solving isn’t just about responding to (and fixing) the environment that exists today. It is also about innovating, creating new things and changing the environment to be more desirable. Problem-solving enables us to identify and exploit opportunities in the environment and exert (some level of) control over the future.
Problem solving skills and the problem-solving process are a critical part of daily life both as individuals and organizations. Developing and refining these skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty. View KT’s Problem Solving workshop known to be the gold standard for over 60 years.
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Introduction to Problem Solving Skills
What is problem solving and why is it important.
The ability to solve problems is a basic life skill and is essential to our day-to-day lives, at home, at school, and at work. We solve problems every day without really thinking about how we solve them. For example: it’s raining and you need to go to the store. What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don't want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.
Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.
Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life. In the current fast-changing global economy, employers often identify everyday problem solving as crucial to the success of their organizations. For employees, problem solving can be used to develop practical and creative solutions, and to show independence and initiative to employers.
Throughout this case study you will be asked to jot down your thoughts in idea logs. These idea logs are used for reflection on concepts and for answering short questions. When you click on the "Next" button, your responses will be saved for that page. If you happen to close the webpage, you will lose your work on the page you were on, but previous pages will be saved. At the end of the case study, click on the "Finish and Export to PDF" button to acknowledge completion of the case study and receive a PDF document of your idea logs.
What Does Problem Solving Look Like?
The ability to solve problems is a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So how exactly do you practice problem solving? Learning about different problem solving strategies and when to use them will give you a good start. Problem solving is a process. Most strategies provide steps that help you identify the problem and choose the best solution. There are two basic types of strategies: algorithmic and heuristic.
Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.
But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL [ Bransford & Stein, 1993 ] :
- I dentify the problem
- D efine the context of the problem
- E xplore possible strategies
- A ct on best solution
IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy. Building a toolbox of problem solving strategies will improve your problem solving skills. With practice, you will be able to recognize and use multiple strategies to solve complex problems.
Watch the video
What is the best way to get a peanut out of a tube that cannot be moved? Watch a chimpanzee solve this problem in the video below [ Geert Stienissen, 2010 ].
Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.
- [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.
Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.
- [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.
Developing Problem Solving Processes
Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems. But what does that really mean? Let's break it down and start building our toolbox of problem solving strategies.
What is the first step of solving any problem? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and identify the right cause of the problem. This may sound obvious, but similar problems can arise from different events, and the real issue may not always be apparent. To really solve the problem, it's important to find out what started it all. This is called identifying the root cause .
Example: You and your classmates have been working long hours on a project in the school's workshop. The next afternoon, you try to use your student ID card to access the workshop, but discover that your magnetic strip has been demagnetized. Since the card was a couple of years old, you chalk it up to wear and tear and get a new ID card. Later that same week you learn that several of your classmates had the same problem! After a little investigation, you discover that a strong magnet was stored underneath a workbench in the workshop. The magnet was the root cause of the demagnetized student ID cards.
The best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to ask questions and gather information. If you have a vague problem, investigating facts is more productive than guessing a solution. Ask yourself questions about the problem. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? When was the last time it worked correctly? What has changed since then? Can you diagram the process into separate steps? Where in the process is the problem occurring? Be curious, ask questions, gather facts, and make logical deductions rather than assumptions.
Watch Adam Savage from Mythbusters, describe his problem solving process [ ForaTv, 2010 ]. As you watch this section of the video, try to identify the questions he asks and the different strategies he uses.
Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important. Your list may be different from other people in your class—that's ok!
- [Page 3: Developing Problem Solving Processes] Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important.
“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.” — Thomas J. Watson , founder of IBM
Voices From the Field: Solving Problems
In manufacturing facilities and machine shops, everyone on the floor is expected to know how to identify problems and find solutions. Today's employers look for the following skills in new employees: to analyze a problem logically, formulate a solution, and effectively communicate with others.
In this video, industry professionals share their own problem solving processes, the problem solving expectations of their employees, and an example of how a problem was solved.
Meet the Partners:
- Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is a comprehensive, fully accredited high school with special programs in Health Technology, Manufacturing Technology, and Work-Based Learning.
- Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, prepares its students with applied manufacturing technical skills, providing hands-on experience at industrial laboratories and manufacturing facilities, and instructing them in current technologies.
- H.C. Starck in Newton, Massachusetts, specializes in processing and manufacturing technology metals, such as tungsten, niobium, and tantalum. In almost 100 years of experience, they hold over 900 patents, and continue to innovate and develop new products.
- Nypro Healthcare in Devens, Massachusetts, specializes in precision injection-molded healthcare products. They are committed to good manufacturing processes including lean manufacturing and process validation.
Now that you have a couple problem solving strategies in your toolbox, let's practice. In this exercise, you are given a scenario and you will be asked to decide what steps you would take to identify and solve the problem.
Scenario: You are a new employee and have just finished your training. As your first project, you have been assigned the milling of several additional components for a regular customer. Together, you and your trainer, Bill, set up for the first run. Checking your paperwork, you gather the tools and materials on the list. As you are mounting the materials on the table, you notice that you didn't grab everything and hurriedly grab a few more items from one of the bins. Once the material is secured on the CNC table, you load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets.
Bill tells you that since this is a rerun of a job several weeks ago, the CAD/CAM model has already been converted to CNC G-code. Bill helps you download the code to the CNC machine. He gives you the go-ahead and leaves to check on another employee. You decide to start your first run.
What problems did you observe in the video?
- [Page 5: Making Decisions] What problems did you observe in the video?
- What do you do next?
- Try to fix it yourself.
- Ask your trainer for help.
As you are cleaning up, you think about what happened and wonder why it happened. You try to create a mental picture of what happened. You are not exactly sure what the end mill hit, but it looked like it might have hit the dowel pin. You wonder if you grabbed the correct dowel pins from the bins earlier.
You can think of two possible next steps. You can recheck the dowel pin length to make sure it is the correct length, or do a dry run using the CNC single step or single block function with the spindle empty to determine what actually happened.
- Check the dowel pins.
- Use the single step/single block function to determine what happened.
You notice that your trainer, Bill, is still on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem to him. Bill asks if you know what the end mill ran into. You explain that you are not sure but you think it was the dowel pin. Bill reminds you that it is important to understand what happened so you can fix the correct problem. He suggests that you start all over again and begin with a dry run using the single step/single block function, with the spindle empty, to determine what it hit. Or, since it happened at the end, he mentions that you can also check the G-code to make sure the Z-axis is raised before returning to the home position.
- Run the single step/single block function.
- Edit the G-code to raise the Z-axis.
You finish cleaning up and check the CNC for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. You check your paperwork and gather the components and materials again. You look at the dowel pins you used earlier, and discover that they are not the right length. As you go to grab the correct dowel pins, you have to search though several bins. For the first time, you are aware of the mess - it looks like the dowel pins and other items have not been put into the correctly labeled bins. You spend 30 minutes straightening up the bins and looking for the correct dowel pins.
Finally finding them, you finish setting up. You load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do a dry run of the part. Everything looks good! You are ready to create your first part. The first component is done, and, as you admire your success, you notice that the part feels hotter than it should.
You wonder why? You go over the steps of the process to mentally figure out what could be causing the residual heat. You wonder if there is a problem with the CNC's coolant system or if the problem is in the G-code.
- Look at the G-code.
After thinking about the problem, you decide that maybe there's something wrong with the setup. First, you clean up the damaged materials and remove the broken tool. You check the CNC machine carefully for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. It is time to start over again from the beginning.
You again check your paperwork and gather the tools and materials on the setup sheet. After securing the new materials, you use the CNC single step/single block function with the spindle empty, to do a dry run of the part. You watch carefully to see if you can figure out what happened. It looks to you like the spindle barely misses hitting the dowel pin. You determine that the end mill was broken when it hit the dowel pin while returning to the start position.
After conducting a dry run using the single step/single block function, you determine that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin on its return to the home position. You discuss your options with Bill. Together, you decide the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis before returning to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. You are ready to create your first part. It works. You first part is completed. Only four more to go.
As you are cleaning up, you notice that the components are hotter than you expect and the end mill looks more worn than it should be. It dawns on you that while you were milling the component, the coolant didn't turn on. You wonder if it is a software problem in the G-code or hardware problem with the CNC machine.
It's the end of the day and you decide to finish the rest of the components in the morning.
- You decide to look at the G-code in the morning.
- You leave a note on the machine, just in case.
You decide that the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code.
While editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis, you notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and at the end of the code. The coolant command error caught your attention because your coworker, Mark, mentioned having a similar issue during lunch. You change the coolant command to turn the mist on.
- You decide to talk with your supervisor.
- You discuss what happened with a coworker over lunch.
As you reflect on the residual heat problem, you think about the machining process and the factors that could have caused the issue. You try to think of anything and everything that could be causing the issue. Are you using the correct tool for the specified material? Are you using the specified material? Is it running at the correct speed? Is there enough coolant? Are there chips getting in the way?
Wait, was the coolant turned on? As you replay what happened in your mind, you wonder why the coolant wasn't turned on. You decide to look at the G-code to find out what is going on.
From the milling machine computer, you open the CNC G-code. You notice that there are no coolant commands. You add them in and on the next run, the coolant mist turns on and the residual heat issues is gone. Now, its on to creating the rest of the parts.
Have you ever used brainstorming to solve a problem? Chances are, you've probably have, even if you didn't realize it.
You notice that your trainer, Bill, is on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem with the end mill breaking, and how you discovered that items are not being returned to the correctly labeled bins. You think this caused you to grab the incorrect length dowel pins on your first run. You have sorted the bins and hope that the mess problem is fixed. You then go on to tell Bill about the residual heat issue with the completed part.
Together, you go to the milling machine. Bill shows you how to check the oil and coolant levels. Everything looks good at the machine level. Next, on the CNC computer, you open the CNC G-code. While looking at the code, Bill points out that there are no coolant commands. Bill adds them in and when you rerun the program, it works.
Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .
Talking with Bill, you discuss the best way to fix the problem. Bill suggests editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to its home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Following the setup sheet, you re-setup the job and use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part. It works. Since you need four of each component, you move on to creating the rest of them before cleaning up and leaving for the day.
It's a new day and you have new components to create. As you are setting up, you go in search of some short dowel pins. You discover that the bins are a mess and components have not been put away in the correctly labeled bins. You wonder if this was the cause of yesterday's problem. As you reorganize the bins and straighten up the mess, you decide to mention the mess issue to Bill in your afternoon meeting.
You describe the bin mess and using the incorrect length dowels to Bill. He is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are not the first person to mention similar issues with tools and parts not being put away correctly. Chances are there is a bigger safety issue here that needs to be addressed in the next staff meeting.
In any workplace, following proper safety and cleanup procedures is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money.
You now know that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin. It seems to you that the easiest thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis position of the spindle before it returns to the home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code, raising the Z-axis. Starting over, you follow the setup sheet and re-setup the job. This time, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part.
At the end of the day, you are reviewing your progress with your trainer, Bill. After you describe the day's events, he reminds you to always think about safety and the importance of following work procedures. He decides to bring the issue up in the next morning meeting as a reminder to everyone.
In any workplace, following proper procedures (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. One tool to improve communication is the morning meeting or huddle.
The next morning, you check the G-code to determine what is wrong with the coolant. You notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and also at the end of the code. This is strange. You change the G-code to turn the coolant on at the beginning of the run and off at the end. This works and you create the rest of the parts.
Throughout the day, you keep wondering what caused the G-code error. At lunch, you mention the G-code error to your coworker, John. John is not surprised. He said that he encountered a similar problem earlier this week. You decide to talk with your supervisor the next time you see him.
You are in luck. You see your supervisor by the door getting ready to leave. You hurry over to talk with him. You start off by telling him about how you asked Bill for help. Then you tell him there was a problem and the end mill was damaged. You describe the coolant problem in the G-code. Oh, and by the way, John has seen a similar problem before.
Your supervisor doesn't seem overly concerned, errors happen. He tells you "Good job, I am glad you were able to fix the issue." You are not sure whether your supervisor understood your explanation of what happened or that it had happened before.
The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor that something is not going well, it is important to remember that timing, preparation, and attitude are extremely important.
It is the end of your shift, but you want to let the next shift know that the coolant didn't turn on. You do not see your trainer or supervisor around. You decide to leave a note for the next shift so they are aware of the possible coolant problem. You write a sticky note and leave it on the monitor of the CNC control system.
How effective do you think this solution was? Did it address the problem?
In this scenario, you discovered several problems with the G-code that need to be addressed. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring and avoid injury to personnel. The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your co-workers or supervisor that there is a problem, it is important to remember that timing and the method of communication are extremely important.
You are able to fix the coolant problem in the G-code. While you are glad that the problem is fixed, you are worried about why it happened in the first place. It is important to remember that if a problem keeps reappearing, you may not be fixing the right problem. You may only be addressing the symptoms.
You decide to talk to your trainer. Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .
Over lunch, you ask your coworkers about the G-code problem and what may be causing the error. Several people mention having similar problems but do not know the cause.
You have now talked to three coworkers who have all experienced similar coolant G-code problems. You make a list of who had the problem, when they had the problem, and what each person told you.
When you see your supervisor later that afternoon, you are ready to talk with him. You describe the problem you had with your component and the damaged bit. You then go on to tell him about talking with Bill and discovering the G-code issue. You show him your notes on your coworkers' coolant issues, and explain that you think there might be a bigger problem.
You supervisor thanks you for your initiative in identifying this problem. It sounds like there is a bigger problem and he will need to investigate the root cause. He decides to call a team huddle to discuss the issue, gather more information, and talk with the team about the importance of communication.
Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis ( RCA ) is a method of problem solving that identifies the underlying causes of an issue. Root cause analysis helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. RCA uses clear cut steps in its associated tools, like the "5 Whys Analysis" and the "Cause and Effect Diagram," to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:
- Determine what happened.
- Determine why it happened.
- Fix the problem so it won’t happen again.
RCA works under the idea that systems and events are connected. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it developed into the problem you're now facing. Root cause analysis can prevent problems from recurring, reduce injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money. There are many different RCA techniques available to determine the root cause of a problem. These are just a few:
- Root Cause Analysis Tools
- 5 Whys Analysis
- Fishbone or Cause and Effect Diagram
- Pareto Analysis
How Huddles Work
Communication is a vital part of any setting where people work together. Effective communication helps employees and managers form efficient teams. It builds trusts between employees and management, and reduces unnecessary competition because each employee knows how their part fits in the larger goal.
One tool that management can use to promote communication in the workplace is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting where everyone is standing in a circle. A daily team huddle ensures that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, reiterated problems and safety issues, and how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.
The most important thing to remember about huddles is that they are short, lasting no more than 10 minutes, and their purpose is to communicate and identify. In essence, a huddle’s purpose is to identify priorities, communicate essential information, and discover roadblocks to productivity.
Who uses huddles? Many industries and companies use daily huddles. At first thought, most people probably think of hospitals and their daily patient update meetings, but lots of managers use daily meetings to engage their employees. Here are a few examples:
- Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk? , uses the daily huddle as an operational tool to take the pulse of his employees and as a motivational tool. Watch a morning huddle meeting .
- Fusion OEM, an outsourced manufacturing and production company. What do employees take away from the daily huddle meeting .
- Biz-Group, a performance consulting group. Tips for a successful huddle .
One tool that can be useful in problem solving is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination . The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually. Like most problem solving techniques, brainstorming is a process.
- Define a clear objective.
- Have an agreed a time limit.
- During the brainstorming session, write down everything that comes to mind, even if the idea sounds crazy.
- If one idea leads to another, write down that idea too.
- Combine and refine ideas into categories of solutions.
- Assess and analyze each idea as a potential solution.
When used during problem solving, brainstorming can offer companies new ways of encouraging staff to think creatively and improve production. Brainstorming relies on team members' diverse experiences, adding to the richness of ideas explored. This means that you often find better solutions to the problems. Team members often welcome the opportunity to contribute ideas and can provide buy-in for the solution chosen—after all, they are more likely to be committed to an approach if they were involved in its development. What's more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond.
- Watch Peggy Morgan Collins, a marketing executive at Power Curve Communications discuss How to Stimulate Effective Brainstorming .
- Watch Kim Obbink, CEO of Filter Digital, a digital content company, and her team share their top five rules for How to Effectively Generate Ideas .
Importance of Good Communication and Problem Description
Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide when you talk to your supervisor.
Tips for clear communication of an issue:
- Provide a clear summary of your problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.
- Avoid including your opinion or personal attacks in your explanation.
- Avoid using words like "always" or "never," which can give the impression that you are exaggerating the problem.
- If this is an ongoing problem and you have collected documentation, give it to your supervisor once you have finished describing the problem.
- Remember to listen to what's said in return; communication is a two-way process.
Not all communication is spoken. Body language is nonverbal communication that includes your posture, your hands and whether you make eye contact. These gestures can be subtle or overt, but most importantly they communicate meaning beyond what is said. When having a conversation, pay attention to how you stand. A stiff position with arms crossed over your chest may imply that you are being defensive even if your words state otherwise. Shoving your hands in your pockets when speaking could imply that you have something to hide. Be wary of using too many hand gestures because this could distract listeners from your message.
The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas or concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor or co-worker about something that is not going well, keep in mind that good timing and good attitude will go a long way toward helping your case.
Like all skills, effective communication needs to be practiced. Toastmasters International is perhaps the best known public speaking organization in the world. Toastmasters is open to anyone who wish to improve their speaking skills and is willing to put in the time and effort to do so. To learn more, visit Toastmasters International .
Methods of Communication
Communication of problems and issues in any workplace is important, particularly when safety is involved. It is therefore crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. As issues and problems arise, they need to be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important skill because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.
There are many different ways to communicate: in person, by phone, via email, or written. There is no single method that fits all communication needs, each one has its time and place.
In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response through their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.
Email: Email has become the communication standard for most businesses. It can be accessed from almost anywhere and is great for things that don’t require an immediate response. Email is a great way to communicate non-urgent items to large amounts of people or just your team members. One thing to remember is that most people's inboxes are flooded with emails every day and unless they are hyper vigilant about checking everything, important items could be missed. For issues that are urgent, especially those around safety, email is not always be the best solution.
Phone: Phone calls are more personal and direct than email. They allow us to communicate in real time with another person, no matter where they are. Not only can talking prevent miscommunication, it promotes a two-way dialogue. You don’t have to worry about your words being altered or the message arriving on time. However, mobile phone use and the workplace don't always mix. In particular, using mobile phones in a manufacturing setting can lead to a variety of problems, cause distractions, and lead to serious injury.
Written: Written communication is appropriate when detailed instructions are required, when something needs to be documented, or when the person is too far away to easily speak with over the phone or in person.
There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for your situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.
Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?
- [Page 6:] Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?
Summary of Strategies
In this exercise, you were given a scenario in which there was a problem with a component you were creating on a CNC machine. You were then asked how you wanted to proceed. Depending on your path through this exercise, you might have found an easy solution and fixed it yourself, asked for help and worked with your trainer, or discovered an ongoing G-code problem that was bigger than you initially thought.
When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. Although, each path in this exercise ended with a description of a problem solving tool for your toolbox, the first step is always to identify the problem and define the context in which it happened.
There are several strategies that can be used to identify the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred. RCA uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools like the “5 Why Analysis" or the “Cause and Effect Diagram,” to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:
Once the underlying cause is identified and the scope of the issue defined, the next step is to explore possible strategies to fix the problem.
If you are not sure how to fix the problem, it is okay to ask for help. Problem solving is a process and a skill that is learned with practice. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one knows everything. Life is about learning. It is okay to ask for help when you don’t have the answer. When you collaborate to solve problems you improve workplace communication and accelerates finding solutions as similar problems arise.
One tool that can be useful for generating possible solutions is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually.
Depending on your path through the exercise, you may have discovered that a couple of your coworkers had experienced similar problems. This should have been an indicator that there was a larger problem that needed to be addressed.
In any workplace, communication of problems and issues (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.
One strategy for improving communication is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting with everyone standing in a circle. A daily team huddle is a great way to ensure that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, any problems or safety issues are identified and that team members are aware of how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.
To learn more about different problem solving strategies, choose an option below. These strategies accompany the outcomes of different decision paths in the problem solving exercise.
- View Problem Solving Strategies Select a strategy below... Root Cause Analysis How Huddles Work Brainstorming Importance of Good Problem Description Methods of Communication
Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide during your meeting.
- Provide a clear summary of the problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.
In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response in their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.
There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for the situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.
"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” — Richard Sloma
Problem Solving: An Important Job Skill
Problem solving improves efficiency and communication on the shop floor. It increases a company's efficiency and profitability, so it's one of the top skills employers look for when hiring new employees. Recent industry surveys show that employers consider soft skills, such as problem solving, as critical to their business’s success.
The 2011 survey, "Boiling Point? The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing ," polled over a thousand manufacturing executives who reported that the number one skill deficiency among their current employees is problem solving, which makes it difficult for their companies to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.
In this video, industry professionals discuss their expectations and present tips for new employees joining the manufacturing workforce.
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6 strategies to instill problem-solving skills in students.
Why Developing Problem-Solving Skills Is Important
Problem-solving is defined as the ability to quickly solve any given problem with ease. This requires convergent and divergent thinking skills. Convergent thinking is a process aimed to deduce a concrete solution to a problem. And, the process of exploring all the possible solutions to analyze and generate creative ideas is called divergent thinking.
People with good problem-solving skills are indeed an asset to society. Problem-solving also plays a vital role in child development. These skillsets are much sought-after in this competitive world and are therefore imperative for general life and workplace success .
Problem-solving is an important 21st-century skill because it determines one’s personal development, employment prospects, and overall contribution to society.
6 Practical Ways To Foster Critical Thinking In Students
1. promote skill building through self-directed learning .
Research  proved that self-directed learning promotes critical thinking in students as it allows them to fully explore their creative and imaginative sides. It fosters the ability of independent thinking in students and eventually promotes a sense of self-actualization in them. Today, the principle of autonomous learning is applied in most visionary schooling platforms because it is the most credible way to inculcate this new-age skill in young learners.
This methodology perfectly suits middle and high school students because they enjoy the process of discovery learning and are capable of drawing conclusions in the light of facts.
As a parent, you need to be a facilitator in this process and understand the importance of problem-solving skills in kids. The simplest way to do this is to allow some independent thinking time after the instructional delivery and encourage multiple original ideas by promoting divergent thinking. All this fosters advanced reasoning abilities in students and promotes critical thinking for advanced problem-solving.
Top educators from great-quality accredited online schools make use of these strategies, along with several other eLearning skills , and guide the learners throughout the process of gathering, prioritizing, interpreting, and concluding information.
2. Encourage Brainstorming In A Non-Judgmental Environment
Problem-solving in child development is a game-changer for success later in life. So, try to create the right atmosphere for kids at home to nurture this core competency.
A non-judgmental environment is always free from negative criticism and sarcasm. Allow children to voice opinions freely and make sure there is enough positive reinforcement for all genuine attempts.
Individual brainstorming is the best to craft creative solutions for less complex issues because it allows individuals to break free from regular, conventional ideas while interacting in a more positive environment.
Support your kid for more and more lateral/parallel thinking and appreciate all out-of-box/innovative responses.
3. Strengthen The Components Of Problem-Solving
Another way to foster problem-solving skills in learners is by strengthening the decision-making component of the problem-solving process. Decision-making skills are imperative to solve problems because they help to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before reaching a conclusion.
Encourage kids to make choices between possible alternatives and make this fun by trying out everyday basic choices like food, books, movies, sports, etc. Make sure you allow kids to take charge of these decisions and intervene with your logical and valid inputs. Remember that it is essential to understand the importance of problem-solving skills in kids. So, try to create enough such opportunities for young learners.
These practices will develop habits of analyzing situations from multiple dimensions and eventually, children will learn to research and preempt the repercussions of their individual choices.
4. Use The Best Techniques Of Some Researched Theories
Some great psychological theories can be easily applied in real-life situations. As a parent, you can foster these relevant problem-solving skills in the child by incorporating some components of popular theories.
Let me explain this through some examples:
Use the theory of "psychological distancing"  to disconnect children from their emotions while solving the problem. It will help them see the bigger picture of the issue by viewing it from a wider perspective. This strategy eliminates the chances of biases and selective understanding based on personal preferences and therefore, helps in viewing issues through multiple perspectives.
Another helpful strategy can be the "heuristic framework" , which can help foster advanced thinking abilities by breaking information into smaller and more comprehensive parts. With middle and high schoolers, you can try its component of backward planning effectively. This strategy can be mindfully implemented in any day-to-day situation, like planning for a get-together or estimating monthly expenses for budget planning. Encourage responses in a way that starts from the most distant challenges like month-end crunch/emergency funds, etc., and look for these solutions before planning the immediate requirements.
5. Be A Positive Role Model
As parents, we can also foster problem-solving skills through numerous informal interactions and behaviors. Our own approach toward solving problems largely influences our children's abilities because there is a powerful impact on the family atmosphere and parenting in the critical habit formation stages.
Look for opportunities to involve children in problematic situations and create some hypothetical ones if you do not have real ones. Involve children in discussions that need deep thinking; for example, preparations for extreme weather change or changing some business strategies (like hoarding raw material) to bring down the investments of a family business.
Be a structured and organized problem solver yourself and present your thoughts in the most logical and sequential manner. Support children's efforts throughout and share your input about their dilemmas. The importance of problem-solving skills in kids is evident. So, try to be an ideal role model for kids all the time.
6. Observe, Facilitate, And Share Feedback
Last but not least, be a guide and mentor for your students at all times. Observe them and be ready to intervene as and when it is required. Avoid interrupting and criticizing directly at any point in time because these competencies are best developed in a positive learning environment .
So, make sure you share enough positive feedback and facilitate this process throughout. However, do not give any direct answers to make the task easy for children. Instead, guide them through the pathway that can lead to possible and relevant solutions. Encourage multiple solutions and prejudice-free opinions and allow enough time for kids to derive conclusions. Re-explain the steps of the process (identifying, analyzing, solving, and reviewing, etc.) repeatedly, and motivate children for more and more divergent thinking.
Problem-solving skills are an asset for our kids in all stages of life. So, put your best foot forward and support your child in and out to acquire these 21st-century relevant skillsets for a tremendously successful and happy life ahead!
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Importance of Problem Solving Skills and How to Nurture them in your Child
We all face problems on a daily basis. You, me—our kids aren’t even exempted. Across all different age groups, there rarely is a day when we don’t experience them.
Teaching our kids to develop resilience can help as they face these challenges. Practical problem solving skills are just as necessary to teach our kids. The methods needed to resolve problems may require other skills such as creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, teamwork, decision making, etc.
Unlike with math problems, life doesn’t just come with one formula or guidebook that’s applicable to solve every little problem we face. Being adaptable to various situations is important. So is nurturing problem solving skills in your child.
Here we’ll take a look at the importance of problem solving skills and some ways to nurture them in your child.
Why do we need problem-solving skills?
One thing that always comes up when we speak of problem-solving skills are the benefits for one’s mental health .
Problems are often complex. This means that problem solving skills aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems.
Strengthening and nurturing this set of skills helps children cope with challenges as they come. They can face and resolve a wider variety of problems with efficiency and without resulting in a breakdown.
This will help develop your child’s independence, allowing for them to grow into confident, responsible adults.
Another importance of problem-solving skills is its impact on relationships . Whether they be friendships, family, or business relationships, poor problem solving skills may result in relationships breaking apart.
Being able to get to the bottom of a problem and find solutions together, with all the parties involved, helps keep relationships intact and eliminate conflicts as they arise. Being adept at this skill may even help strengthen and deepen relationships.
What steps can you take to nurture your child’s problem-solving skills?
Nurturing problem-solving skills in your child requires more than just focusing on the big picture and laying out steps to resolve problems. It requires that you teach them to find and focus on a problem’s essential components.
This may challenge your child’s critical thinking and creativity, among other things.
This refers to the ability of breaking down a complex problem and analyzing its component parts.
The ability to do that will make it easier to come up with logical solutions to almost any problem. Being able to sort through and organize that pile of smaller chunks of information helps them face problems with ease. It also prevents your child from feeling overwhelmed when a huge barrier is laid out in front of them.
Help your child practice critical thinking by asking them questions. Open-ended questions specifically help them think outside the box and analyze the situation.
Teach them to look into possible reasons why something is the way it is. Why is the sky blue? Why are plants green? Encourage them to be curious and ask questions themselves.
Creative thinking is being able to look at different possible reasons and solutions in the context of problem-solving. It’s coming up with ideas and finding new ways of getting around a problem. Or being open to different ways of looking at an object or scenario.
Creative thinking is best nurtured with activities that involve reflection.
Try getting your child’s viewpoint on topics that may have different answers or reasons for taking place. Get them in the habit of brainstorming ideas, doing story-telling activities, and reading books. All of these help broaden a person’s thinking and flex their creative muscles.
It’s important to retain your role as an observer, supporter, or facilitator. Step back and let your kids try out their own solutions. Watch what happens while ensuring their safety and well-being.
As an observer, you encourage independence by stepping back and watching how your child resolves the problem in their own way. It may take longer than it would if you jumped in, but leaving them to their own devices can do a lot for nurturing their skills at problem solving.
Support your child by appreciating and acknowledging their efforts. Create a space where they can freely and effectively express their ideas without fear of judgement. Present them with opportunities to play and solve problems on their own. Encourage them to express themselves by brainstorming activities that they might want to do instead of telling them what to do.
These simple steps of overseeing your child can help them become more independent and be resilient enough to tackle problems on their own.
Here at Early Childhood University , we value the importance of enhancing problem solving skills, creativity and critical thinking. Send your little ones to a school that focuses on a child’s holistic development. Give us a call for more information.
Center for Teaching
Teaching problem solving.
Tips and Techniques
Expert vs. novice problem solvers, communicate.
- Have students identify specific problems, difficulties, or confusions . Don’t waste time working through problems that students already understand.
- If students are unable to articulate their concerns, determine where they are having trouble by asking them to identify the specific concepts or principles associated with the problem.
- In a one-on-one tutoring session, ask the student to work his/her problem out loud . This slows down the thinking process, making it more accurate and allowing you to access understanding.
- When working with larger groups you can ask students to provide a written “two-column solution.” Have students write up their solution to a problem by putting all their calculations in one column and all of their reasoning (in complete sentences) in the other column. This helps them to think critically about their own problem solving and helps you to more easily identify where they may be having problems. Two-Column Solution (Math) Two-Column Solution (Physics)
- Model the problem solving process rather than just giving students the answer. As you work through the problem, consider how a novice might struggle with the concepts and make your thinking clear
- Have students work through problems on their own. Ask directing questions or give helpful suggestions, but provide only minimal assistance and only when needed to overcome obstacles.
- Don’t fear group work ! Students can frequently help each other, and talking about a problem helps them think more critically about the steps needed to solve the problem. Additionally, group work helps students realize that problems often have multiple solution strategies, some that might be more effective than others
- Frequently, when working problems, students are unsure of themselves. This lack of confidence may hamper their learning. It is important to recognize this when students come to us for help, and to give each student some feeling of mastery. Do this by providing positive reinforcement to let students know when they have mastered a new concept or skill.
Encourage Thoroughness and Patience
- Try to communicate that the process is more important than the answer so that the student learns that it is OK to not have an instant solution. This is learned through your acceptance of his/her pace of doing things, through your refusal to let anxiety pressure you into giving the right answer, and through your example of problem solving through a step-by step process.
Experts (teachers) in a particular field are often so fluent in solving problems from that field that they can find it difficult to articulate the problem solving principles and strategies they use to novices (students) in their field because these principles and strategies are second nature to the expert. To teach students problem solving skills, a teacher should be aware of principles and strategies of good problem solving in his or her discipline .
The mathematician George Polya captured the problem solving principles and strategies he used in his discipline in the book How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Princeton University Press, 1957). The book includes a summary of Polya’s problem solving heuristic as well as advice on the teaching of problem solving.
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Problem-Solving Skills Prepare Students for Future Careers ... Children who learn how to solve problems when they are young tend to appreciate
When children solve problems individually or in a group, they become more resilient. They learn to look at problems from a new perspective. Therefore, it makes
The development of problem-solving skills is an essential aspect of child development. Learning how to approach and solve problems
Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how
Using effective problem solving techniques will help children avoid conflict with others in a school setting and in their everyday lives. It
As children grow older, they learn that not all problems have simple solutions. Whether they need to find the best solution for a project in
Problem-solving helps us understand relationships and implement the changes and improvements needed to compete and survive in a continually changing environment
Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life.
People with good problem-solving skills are indeed an asset to society. Problem-solving also plays a vital role in child development. These
Teaching our kids to develop resilience can help as they face these challenges. Practical problem solving skills are just as necessary to teach
Frequently, when working problems, students are unsure of themselves. This lack of confidence may hamper their learning. It is important to recognize this when