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HOW TO DEVELOP PROBLEM-SOLVING IN THE STUDENTS

HOW TO DEVELOP PROBLEM-SOLVING IN THE STUDENTS

We barely perceive how the future job market would look like. According to the World Economic Forum’s report “Future of Jobs”, 75 million current jobs will vanished by 2025. But the optimistic thing is 133 million new jobs will be created. Machines will take over many jobs. Humans will have to collaborate with the machines to get jobs done. If anybody wants to survive in such an era, he should focus on his human skills to stay competitive. And these human skills are called soft skills.  Nevertheless learning future hard skills like AI, IoT, Machine Learning and Data Science, etc are equally important. Learning hard skills is relatively easy, thanks to Google, YouTube, Udemy and Coursera, etc. But learning soft skills is a continuous process that starts from childhood and it cannot be learned online or in 2-3 months.  World Economic Forum prescribed the following soft skills by interviewing the chief HR professional of some of the world’s top companies.

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgment and Decision-making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Here, we see problem-solving is the top of the list. Why it is so important skill. Problem-solving is the foundation of human progression. It helps us to understand what is happening in our environment. It is the origin of all new inventions, cultural and social evolution. And the cornerstone of market-based economics. It is a source of constant upgrading, intelligence, and training.

In Pakistan, education system context, problem-solving has not been fostering in schools, colleges, universities, and homes. In a report of World Economic Forum Global Human Capital, Pakistan scored 125th position out of 130 countries in quality education. The reasons for the poor quality education are corruption, gender discrimination, lack of soft skills and recommended culture, etc. Thus, parents and teachers have to become more vigilant, creative, adaptable and think out of the box to minimize this gap. Here are some strategies which may help parents and teachers to cultivate problem-solving skills in their students.

STEM EDUCATION

Our education system believes in cramming in studying which is no more required in today’s world. If we want to involve our students in problem-solving activities then education should be as addictive and entertaining as YouTube or video games and that’s what STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is. This is a project-based learning which allows students to comprehend and analyze the adequacy of their work to their real-life and environment challenges. There are some private kids clubs and academies which are providing STEM education but they are very expensive for middle and lower class students and not accessible to everyone. However, teachers and parents can arrange to learn STEM to the students within their resources. First of all, teachers have to train themselves and the parents as well. There are many classroom activities and lesson plans are available on the net. Teachers can utilize those materials in their classes. At home, almost every student has access to the internet,  thus parents can show kids STEM-based movies, documentaries and may download apps that engage them in STEM activates in a fun way.

Change the perspective about Problem

We naturally perceive the word “problem” in a negative sense and feel irritated. The same is the case with the students. Whether it would be a mathematical problem or a real-life problem, students get panic. To teach them problem-solving, it is necessary that first, we should change their perspective towards the problem. Problem is just a distance between the goal state and the current state. Students should be realized that a problem is an opportunity which they have to avail by hook or by crook. Students used to able to transform from negative “I can’t” to proactive “how can I do”.

That’s what Albert Einstein said “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer”.

Learning Problem Solving at Home

The first step of the problem-solving process is to identify the problem. Mostly students at an early age cannot recognize the root cause because they are unable to understand their feelings and emotions.

Parents should keenly observe their children. They can help their children to think about why they are stuck, what is frustrating them. What they would need to get unstuck. They need to think about their thinking and that is called metacognition. For example, instead of saying the chemistry test makes anxious, the student should ask himself what is about chemistry test that me anxious and what can I do to change it.

Parents should teach their children that all the emotions and feelings are acceptable. For example, jealousy is a common feeling in siblings. First, help children to understand this feeling then find the root cause and the solution to this issue.  This strategy will help students in the future to make a clear vision about anything.

Thirdly, parents should never provide the ultimate solution to their children. Let them do brainstorming and getting frustrated. This frustration will keep them motivated. However, parents should provide all the resources which can be helpful in problem-solving including their emotional support. Ask them open-ended questions, share with them our leaders and warriors’ stories, and involve them in creative activities according to their age. And the most important thing is to involve them in your problem-solving process. For example ask their opinion while making a budget, making a timetable and selecting the dress, etc.

Learning Problem Solving in Classroom

Most of the teachers would be familiar with the technique called mind mapping. It is very effective in the problem-solving learning process because students learn more by visuals. It can provide originative and quick solutions to them. Students can use different colors and images in mind mapping to stimulate and calm their brains. Teachers can use this map in problem-solving activities.

For example, the teacher can ask students to make and decorate a box with the tag “problem-solving box” on it. Then invite students to write their problems on a plain paper anonymously, which are not being solved by them.  It may pertain to their class, home or about siblings, etc. Students will drop those papers in the box and the teacher will pick up randomly any paper. Now the teacher will divide the class in the groups of 2-3 students and ask them to draw mind maps for the problem. There should be two separate mind maps. In one map, the problem will be in the center and causes will be the branches. In the second map, solutions will be in the center and resources and alternatives will be branches. This activity can be done once or twice a week.

The second activity is, teacher can copy a challenging or tricky situation from any movie or book then discuss it in the class for the solutions. For example, a group of students gets stuck on an island and they have limited food and water, etc. Then how will they cope up with this situation? The teacher should make sure that every student will participate in this activity.

Thirdly, if students find any subject boring and difficult, then ask students for the alternatives to make it interesting and easy for them.

Teach the students to break down their problems into chucks. And assign the appropriate time to tackle with each chunk. For example, if a child is weak in English then list down his problematic areas like spelling, pronunciation or writing. Then set the target to deal with each area one by one.

So dear teachers and parents, these are some strategies that may help your students to be prepared for the upcoming challenges. Please comment if you have any other strategies and alternatives. Also, share your experiences in the problem-solving process with your students.

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