Problem solving skills and techniques


Every person encounters some problems – either at home, school, or workplace. Problems can be routine or new ones. The intensity also differs each time.

When a problem arises, the common reactions are

  • Either you want to escape
  • Blame it on others
  • Solve with options available

The reasons for negative reactions are that we feel there is no perfect solution to any problem but one has to realize that problems are inevitable and have to be solved. So how does one develop problem-solving skills? To answer this question one has to understand the importance and definition of Problem solving skills.

Importance of Problem-solving Skills

Why is problem-solving important for students?

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There are some vital skills that have to be acquired by individuals when they are in School. The most important skill is problem-solving. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • This ability will help students solve hitches they face in their day-to-day lives, at school, at home, and also when they start working in an organization.
  • Problems arise at every stage due to the changing global economy, changing the environment, and people having stressed lives due to time constraints. Students will soon be coming face to face with the real world and this skill can help them to adapt faster and grow in this fluctuating environment.
  • Employers often seek college graduates who have good problem-solving skills. Students with these skills are said to be more initiative, practical, creative, and independent. Naturally, students with this vital skill have more chances of clearing interviews and securing top jobs.

Problem-solving skills definition

So how to define Problem-solving. It can be defined in the following ways:

  • It is the capability of an individual to solve problems effectively and on time.
  • It involves identifying the problem, analyzing, generating solutions, testing solutions, and evaluating the effectiveness of a chosen solution.
  • It not only involves critical thinking and decision making but also involves the practical application of acquired skills.

Problem-solving steps

Students can solve problems step-wise as follows:

1.) Recognize the problem

First, recognizing there is a problem. Only when we identify it, can we solve it.

2.) Analyze it

Next, one should start by analyzing it. Analyze its severity, dimensions, and by what time limit it should be solved.

3.) Make a list of solutions

Every problem has a solution. If your phone battery is down, you have to charge it. So search for the solutions. Some problems have more than one solution, gather them and write them down.

4.) Analyze each one

Analyze each solution by listing all its pros and cons. In case your mobile needs a charge, find the places where you can charge it - at home, on the metro or at your school.

5.) Select the one you think best

Choose the best option out of the solutions you arrive at. If you are in the metro and your mobile needs an urgent recharge, it is best to charge it immediately.

6.) Test the chosen solution

The next step in problem-solving is to test the chosen solution.

7.) Analyze results

Once the problem is solved with the best option, check its effectivity. Analyze the pros and cons and the repercussions that occurred when that option was adopted.

If your best solution does not solve the problem, then what were the reasons for the option being ineffective?

8.) Make contingency plans from beforehand in case your option backfires.

Remember to keep a contingency plan ready if your option backfires. So, if your phone was not charged on the metro (due to various reasons), you can always reach school and charge your phone.

Problem-solving techniques

1. Take a deep breath

This means to remain calm when you face a problem. It is not the end of the world. Avoid getting nervous. Ignore negative thoughts that may come to your mind. Instead, read the situation and try to find solutions.

2. Understand the dimensions of the problem

Avoid overthinking the problem. It may look huge but it may require a simple answer. It is up to us to find out.

3. Question

One of the techniques is to ask questions.

  • What are the different scenarios possible due to the present problem?
  • How any particular idea or multiple ideas can work out for the present situation?
  • What if I do this or that?
  • Can I make this decision?
  • Why not do this?
  • Has such a problem occurred before?

4. Brainstorm a group of well-wishers/Team

The problem can be put forth to a group and their ideas and opinions can be discussed.

5. Practice, Patience is the key

How to improve problem-solving skills, especially as students? The answer lies in practicing imaginary problematic situations on a regular basis –

  • in school under the guidance of a teacher,
  • with peers,
  • Or at home with the help of the family.

Once the problem is put forth, the student should not be overawed. One needs to

be patient and find ways to come out of it.

How to develop problem-solving skills

Nobody is born with a skill for problem-solving. It can be cultivated with years of practice. In addition, you should also develop creativity skills, researching skills, risk-taking, and decision-making.

Use problem-solving exercises such as the one below so that one is more ready for the future. Most of these exercises can be given by teachers to a group of students who may have to work out as a team.

I) Brainstorming session

A fiction story can be used for this game. Students can take up some characters from the story and analyze how their character behaves in a given situation. The students can think further and come up with different behavioral patterns for their chosen characters but in the same situation.

II) Create scenarios for survival

Give scenarios where the students have to create a plan for themselves using meager resources for survival.

For example, a plane has crashed into the mountains and the survivors have only a few resources such as food and warm clothing to utilize before help arrives.

III) Box of problems

Take a small box and ask students to fill it with problems that they are experiencing on paper. The students can do this anonymously.

Once or twice a week the teacher can call any student to retrieve one paper and read the problem aloud. All students can be asked for their thoughts as to how the problem can be solved.

IV) Put for forwarding a moral dilemma

A conflict situation can be introduced which will create an imaginary moral dilemma. Students undergoing this exercise have to decide on the perfect solution (each with moral connotations) to resolve conflict.

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