What Is Problem Solving?

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Topics: Problem solving
Fixing a car tire, nailing up a broken chair or even a broken table? Is this problem solving?
Problem Solving is a tool, a skill and a process. It is a tool because it can help to solve an immediate problem or to achieve a goal. It is a skill because you can use it repeatedly, like the ability to ride a bicycle, add numbers or speak a language. It is also a process because it involves taking a number of steps.
Problem solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing and solving problem. Reed (2000) posits that the ultimate goal of problem solving is to overcome obstacles and find solutions that best resolve the issue. Problem solving is an intellectual behaviour that facilitates learning.
According to Gagne, the first step in problem solving is to define the problem. Problem solving takes place through the judicious use of discovery or ‘guided discovery’ method of instruction. Problem solving learning is a process of applying rules which have been learned previously, but it is also a process which yields new learning. Problem solving learning is the highest type of learning- in other words the most complex type.
John Bradsford and Barry Stein (1984) used the acronym IDEAL to devise a five steps general problem solving strategy. The first step is to identify that the problem exist and assume it is a solvable problem.
In step two:

Defining and representing the problem, often requires finding the relevant information that will assist in solving the problem. Your interpretation of the problem is called a translation because you translate the problem into a schema that you understand.

Step three: Explore possible problem strategies

The fourth step: Act on the strategies

Finally the fifth step:
Look back and evaluate the effects of your activities

Sternberg (2003) also stated several steps in Problem solving also known as the Problem-solving Cycle. These include:

Identifying the Problem: This may seem like an

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