22 Aug 2016 ............... Length about 900 words (5,000 bytes).
(Document started on 22 Aug 2016.)
This is a WWW document maintained by
Steve Draper, installed at http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/localed/problems.html.
You may copy it.
How to refer to it.
Web site logical path:
Problems and Problem-solving
Department of Psychology,
University of Glasgow.
This page is a brief note collecting points about the notion of
problem-solving in education; and as a graduate attribute.
Everyday and school meanings of "problem"
Anything which the speaker doesn't immediately know how to solve.
A maths or science problem given in English, not in technical notation.
PBL: problem-based learning
(See also this page.)
PBL is teaching not by didactic exposition, but by setting "problems" whose
solutiom the learners must discover given resources to read. Generally
- Choosing "problems" (assignments) about tasks central to the discipline
e.g. ill patients for medical students.
- Resource based learning: no exposition, but learners must find and read
Here, "problem" is from a pedagogical viewpoint a student assignment designed
to focus learning for a week; but which also from the envisaged professional
(and also the academic disciplinary) viewpoints is usually a task or case for
which knowing the solution (and/or how to discover it from available reference
sources) is required.
Problem-solving: The three phases
Although "problem-solving" is often seen as a general skill e.g. in job ads,
it actually has 3 different major aspects or phases, each requiring 3 quite
different skills, and typically only one of these is central in any given
Thus there are really 3 contrasting component skills:
a) Problematising: taking what others are letting slide by as OK, and
flagging it up as something that needs treating as a problem. Every time a big
fraud in a firm emerges, it is because people (auditors, ...) let it by. In
fact employers need problem-spotters, although not all realise this.
b) Redefining an identified but ill-specified problem into something specific
that can be addressed. [e.g. anxiety; Malaria]
c) Solving it: pushing through to an actionable decision and conclusion.
Generally speaking, the Sciences drill their graduates on this all the time
(because the store of solution methods is a large part of disciplinary
and the Humanities do not; (or perhaps the applied disciplines do but the pure
ones do not.)
Problems: Three categories of hard problems
- Ill-structured problems: typically it is not yet known/agreed even
what solutions might be discoverable, or how to recognise a solution when
- Complex problems: containing different types of sub-problem within
them, so no one type of expertise is sufficient, nor any method of dealing
with the interactions between them.
- Wicked problems (Rittel & Webber). "problems for which no
single computational formulation of the problem is sufficient, for which
different stakeholders do not even agree on what the problem really is, and
for which there are no right or wrong answers only answers that are better or
worse from different points of view".
Web site logical path:
[Top of this page]