Vital Problem - Solving Skills For Students

Pushing towards growth : Students need more than just technical education to survive today. Problem solving abilities fill that void and help students gain better chances of survival, says Vintu Augustine.

Our lives are replete with daily hassles and stressful events. From the morning crossword puzzle to retrieving keys from a locked car, we face manifold difficulties. It becomes extremely difficult to search for solutions for all such matters. The failure to arrive at a solution to a problem puts us into despair and makes us demotivated. The result is stress and disappointment.

Similarly, students also face a number of obstacles in their daily lives. Peer pressure, extreme competition and lack of opportunities make their lives hard and impair their abilities. No matter how small or how big the stressors are, they do have a psychological effect on the young minds. Sure, everyone is born with some talents and abilities in this world but daily hassles and problematic events test every aspect of an individual. Only talent doesn’t matter anymore. You need to acquire the abilities to handle problematic situations and emerge successful. To ensure students have a well-rounded personality and survive in this world, problem solving abilities come into the picture. It is a topic of great significance especially in areas like counselling, clinical psychology, social work, health care and so on.

What is problem solving?

Problem solving refers to active efforts to discover what must be done to achieve a goal that is not readily available. Obviously, if a goal is readily attainable, there isn’t a problem. But in problem solving situations, one must go beyond the information given to overcome obstacles and reach the goal. Problem solving has been defined as an overt or cognitive process that makes available a variety of potentially effective response strategies for coping with problematic situations. The problem solving skills of a student depends on his critical personal resources for dealing with stressors.

Problem solving is further defined as the complex interplay of cognitive, affective, and behavioural processes for the purpose of adapting to internal or external demands or challenges.

Effective problem solvers

It has been suggested for some time that ineffective problem solving results in stressful outcomes and psychological maladjustment. It makes sense that effective problem solvers are flexible, adaptable, and are able to develop suitable methods to solve problems and reach personal goals.

Indeed, in the last few years, there has been mounting evidence that problem solving or coping does play a role in adaptive responses to stress. For example, problem solving has been related to depression, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, physical health, help seeking, career planning and academic performance.

Relation to academic performance

Problem solving is very relevant for educators, school psychologists, and student affairs professionals. Educators are often interested not only in imparting knowledge about specific topics but also in increasing students’ problem solving abilities; thus, the advent of problem-based learning has made problem solving central to the educational process. Likewise, student affairs professionals are often interested in psycho-educational programming to impart specific skills (assertiveness), as well as generic problem solving skills for preventive purposes. In all, problem solving is a topic that has a great deal of applicability for a wide array of practitioners as they work to increase the problem-solving effectiveness of a broad range of people like children, adolescents, college students, adults, and older adults.

Students who promote problem-based learning as an learning approach are expected to be more successful in academic performance and to be better prepared for selfdirected, lifelong learning. most researchers see problem solving as consisting of a sequence of activities, including problem orientation, generation of alternatives, selection of strategies, and evaluation of outcomes. Theoretical accounts of problem solving postulates specific cognitive behavioural skills as important aspect involved in academic achievement.

Effective problem solving can decrease negative affective states by enabling a student more effectively managing the problems. In addition to the link with problems, there is a large body of empirical research demonstrating the relation between problem solving and other variables. Studies have found problem solving to be related to mathematical achievement, verbal and general reasoning ability, spatial ability, field independence, divergent thinking, positive attitudes, and resistance to distraction.

Coping with stress

In a given academic year, a student faces a lot of problems. As the end of a semester approaches, he will have to engage in quite a balancing act in meeting deadlines and fulfilling requirements. They will have papers to write, presentations to give, and exams to prepare for. They may have to maintain a B average to qualify for scholarship or else an a average to sustain parents’ support. Given the socio-economic and technological advancements, life in today’s world is becoming more and more complex with excess of problems. And the responsibility of school authorities and teachers especially has become increasingly demanding to develop scientific attitude and skills in students to cope with the issues of the time.

The procedure of overcoming difficulties or barriers which interfere with the satisfaction of wants and fulfillment of goals is called problem solving. The nature of approach to problems varies from person to person. It also depends on the difficulty of the problem and the ability of the solvers. Animals solve their problems by habitual behaviour or by following trial and error method. at the higher level of evolution, the animals also solve their problems by insight. In human beings, reasoning is the most important method of problem solving.

Agmenting performance

We live in an era, when education has taken a commercial turn and there is a renewed thrust on enhancing the performance of students. This can be achieved only by providing quality education. To enhance quality, it is imperative that we assess students’ problem solving skills and how that create an impact in their academic performance.

Towards this end, it is vital that we form strategies or prepare intervention programs and necessary tools to improve problem solving abilities of students. Such an empirical research should serve as a fundamental template in syllabus formulation and curriculum design.

It is important to recognise problem solving ability of students as a tool kit to academic performance and in addition, it may become an important predictor of managing daily chaos of life. Therefore, students’ life is the perfect time to assess the problem solving ability and determine if there is a need to improve it before they get in to their career life. a better understanding of students’ problem solving abilities and training them with strategies to improve their capacities in this regard will definitely go a long way in determining the quality of education today. Courtesy: Deccan Herald, from magazine 'mathematics today' - March 2015.

Have a child or relative who is in elementary school, try to give a tangram game who knows he likes. Creativity results from tangram can be seen in the following video;

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