Problem Solving & Critical Thinking - Hdlt

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Critical thinking and Problem Solving

HDLT mini paper

It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated. Alec Bourne.

According to American educational Psychologist – Robert M Gagne – “The central point of any education is to teach people to think, to use their rational powers, to become better problem solvers. “ Looking at the current model of our own learning, in HDLT 2 class itself – as students of the second semester in the university; we have been exposed to theories of this subject before. It is now time for adapting, assimilating, applying the past knowledge in real life contexts. This adaptation is tested through fresh, innovative learning environments and higher expectations. Let us first determine critical thinking and problem solving and see how are these phenomenon interrelated with each other and the role both these skills play in our lives. Critical thinking (CT) is defined as “ intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and /or evaluating information gathered from or generated by observations, experiences, reflections, reasoning or communication as a guide to belief and action. ( Scriven & Paul, 2007, P 1). Thus simply put, CT is metacognition or thinking about thinking. Problem-solving (PS) is a mental process that involves ascertaining, investigating and solving problems. The eventual objective of problem-solving is to overcome hindrances and find a solution that best resolves the issue. These problems could range from simply crossing the road and reaching safely on the other side without getting hurt by the oncoming vehicles or solving a Sudoku puzzle or figure out a estimated expenses of a trip or in case of a child, solving a multiplication sum given in the class. The term problem solving ( P S) in educational settings would involve solving well-structured text book problems which are poles apart from ill structured problems which are encountered in everyday life. Thus we can see that in order to effectively solve a problem, one may require to engage with it and critically think about it to find the best solution.

Let us now look at certain important broad themes and specific problem solving processes used by children -

Broad themes -
1.Task analysis – details of steps taken to actually solve problems. For example a child adds 2 multi digit numbers, the actual process - starting with adding the numbers in the right most column, writing ones digit as a part of the answer, carrying over the tens digit ( if it is so ) … so on and so forth. Task analysis helps in identifying the exact places where child might be encountering difficulty in solving the problem, the nature of the difficulty. Thus it gives an insight into the manner in which the child solves problems; and thus provides scope for rectification.

2.Means – End analysis - Using this methodology, one solves a problem by considering the obstacles that stand between the initial problem state and the goal state. The path to reaching the goal can be achieved by accomplishing smaller sub goals. When all of the sub goals have been achieved – when all of the obstacles are out of the way – then the main goal of interest has been achieved. Thus, means-ends analysis can be seen as a search strategy in which the long-range goal is always kept in mind to guide problem solving.

3.Encoding – this literally means identifying critical information in order to build internal representations. Thus it is very important to train the child to filter out the relevant data from the all the available information. Many children fail because they are not thought how to encode critical information and utilize it.

Important processes of Problem Solving-
1.Planning - this is future directed PS, most often used in difficult and new situations. But most often the novelty of the situation also ensures...
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