Goals for student learning:
- Develop analytical solutions to problems
- Evaluate alternative solutions
- Make academic arguments in a quantitative or technical field
Be aware that:
- Students may benefit from a sequence of smaller assignments that culminates in the (written, visual, or oral) presentation of a project.
- Students may not understand the conventions for scientific (or STEM) writing, including conventions for writing with sources.
- Students may not understand the ethos—or mechanics—of citation in your field.
To encourage active, deep, and honest engagement:
- Specify the analytic task you wish students to complete: to find a solution that achieves a desired outcome, for instance, or to propose an empirical design that answers a particular scientific question.
- In a lab course in which groups of students design experiments, consider asking each group to present an initial design considerations and goals for their experiment before implementing it, allowing you to assess and respond to students' thinking at the beginning of the assignment.
- If the design project is a group project, you may wish to differentiate the products of one student’s thinking from another's by using peer evaluation or individual self-reflection.
- Require students to cite faithfully and accurately, and explain how citation is connected to the intellectual life of your discipline.
Assignment types and examples:
- CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate) assignment
- Design Project, Project
Resources for faculty:
Tomorrow’s Professor, “Teaching and Grading Group Assignments:" http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1003
Problem-solving assignments exist to help students build up their critical thinking skills while looking for solutions to real-world problems, based on facts, and not their opinion. Some problem-solving assignments require in-depth research and will be a process to come up with an acceptable and reasonable answer. Some problem-solving assignments will have a solution and it’s up to the students to analyze if it’s the best solution. There could be other solutions that would have made a greater impact and it’s up to a student to reflect and compare what is known today.
Why Problem Solving Assignments Are Important
The purpose of problem-solving assignments is to get students accustomed to dealing with real world situations. The answers in the workplace will not be handed to someone on a silver platter, one needs to find a solution independently. A person must be confronted with a problem and understand what it takes to solve it and do it systematically. What works for one will not work for all. However, a person should be able to explain how they have come to the conclusion and solved that problem.
THE ART OF EFFECTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Problem solving is used in every industry. The more comfortable a person is utilizing their own critical thinking skills, the better prepared they are for a career. Problem solving involves strong mental capabilities and can be used for something as simple as a math problem to something more elaborate and complex regarding a person’s future goals. Whatever the problem or issue may be, a workable solution should be met.
Types of Problem Solving Assignments
There are five main types of problem-solving assignments. There are various methods to solve each type, but it’s up to students to use their own cognitive abilities to solve. They must use all available resources. The five problem-solving assignment types are the following: analytical, informational, argumentative, reflective, and expressive. A student will find that many of the problem-solving assignments intertwine with each other.
- Analytical Problem-Solving Assignments
Analytical problem-solving assignments involve student’s ability to connect ideas. A student should be able to break down the problem into parts and analyze each as to get a clear understanding of what is being asked. Analytical problem solving typically is the foundation of every type of problem-solving assignment.
- Informational Problem-Solving Assignments
Informational problem-solving assignments involve a student’s ability to summarize the problem. Informational problem solving is like a puzzle. A student must break each piece out so it is clear what the problem is. Again, students must analyze the problem at hand and be able to clearly communicate the problem and its solution.
- Argumentative Problem-Solving Assignments
Argumentative problem-solving assignments involve students' ability to state a claim and back the claim up with supportive evidence. A student may not always be asked to formulate their argument based on what they stand for. They may be asked to formulate their argument based on a con to get them to analyze both sides of the problem.
- Reflective Problem-Solving Assignments
Reflective problem-solving assignments involve students' ability to look at past experiences and reflect upon them. This is often an assignment to get the student to think what they have learned from a situation.
- Expressive Problem-Solving Assignments
Expressive problem-solving assignments involve students' ability to express how they feel regarding a situation. This will require a student to use their reflective problem-solving skills.
PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS
Tips for Tackling Problem-Solving Assignments
There is not just one method of solving problems. However, there are basic procedures a person should follow to break down what the problem is and how to formulate a solution. Here are a few very important tips on dealing with problem-solving assignments:
Tip 1. Students should lay out a map in their heads to think what approach they should take. Pinpoint the issue and start formulating a thesis statement to concentrate on the problem.
Tip 2. When formatting the assignment, ensure they have validated that there is a problem. This includes a thorough statement of the problem, any cause and effect relationships, who the problem affects, and the reason a new solution should be met.
Tip 3. Next, evaluate all possible solutions. This may include stating what tactics have been tried in the past if it worked or did not work, and what solutions may have worked better than others, and why.
Tip 4. Finally, when formatting the assignment, clearly define the solution, why it is the best solution of possible solutions available, and what resources are needed to make it work.
Tip 5. Students should realize that not all solutions to a problem will be the most amiable. It’s important to analyze the good and bad.
Tip 6. Students could view the problem as a puzzle. They can create an idea or storyboard and break the facts out. They can use whatever methods necessary to link ideas to possible solutions. Illustrations go a long way.
Tip 7. An important key with problem solving is to always ask why, when, where, who, and how. Why did the problem occur or exist? When did the problem occur? Where did the problem occur? Who caused the problem or is affected by it? How can the problem be rectified?
Tip 8. A student should not be afraid of taking risks. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages of problem solving and their solutions.
Problem-solving assignments are meant to boost students' critical thinking skills. It helps them become organized. Critical thinking is used in everyday life situations and is primarily useful once a student starts their career. If a student can remember to answer the basic why, when, where, who, and how questions, they will be able to formulate the majority of the problem-solving assignment.
PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGIES
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