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How To Become an Effective Problem Solver


A great skill to have is the ability to solve problems effectively. Not only that, it's also a great skill to teach students. There are a few key requirements to solve problems effectively. In and out of the classroom, we're often confronted with problems and effective problem solvers often employ a few key remedies. Here are the steps to becoming an more effective problem solver.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Time Varies

Here's How:

  1. Understand 'why' the problem exists. What is the actual root cause for the problem? If you know something about why the problem exists, you'll have a better time of resolving the problem. Let's take the example of a child who doesn't want to come to school. Before you can help identify a solution, it is important to find out why the child doesn't want to come to school. Perhaps there is a bully involved. So one of the first steps to becoming an effective problem solver is delving into the root cause of the problem.
  2. Be able to clearly identify the problem and the obstacles that the problem presents. All too often, individuals refer to a series of problems instead of tackling the actual problem at hand. Clearly state the problem and what obstacles the problem presents to you. Again, the child who doesn't want to come to school has the problem of it having a negative impact on his/her academic success.
  3. Once you have clearly stated the problem, you need to understand what you have control over and what you don't. Your efforts to resolve the problem must be within the areas where you have control. You may not have control over getting a child to come to school, but you do have control over dealing with the bully that is causing the problem of the child not wanting to attend school. Your efforts to solve the problem must focus on the areas for which you have control over.
  4. Do you have all the information you need? Solving problems is often like becoming involved in investigations. Have you thoroughly researched why the problem exists? Do you have all the information you need? If not, be persistent and seek out all information before tackling the problem.
  5. Don't jump to conclusions. Once you have all of your information, analyze it carefully and look at it from various viewpoints. Be as objective as possible and don't be quick to judge. Remain judgement free as much as possible. This is a time for you to use your critical thinking skills.
  6. Now determine your options for solutions. How many options do you have? Are you sure? Which options seem reasonable? Have you weighed the pros and cons of your options? Are there any limitations to your options? Are some options better than others and why? Are there advantages and disadvantages you need to take into consideration?
  7. You should now be ready to act. A well thought out strategy/solution is now in place. However, what is your plan to monitor its outcome? How will you know that your solution is working? Once your solution is in place, it is important to monitor and evaulate the outcome regularly.
  8. In Summary
    You can use this approach to many classroom problems. A child that won't comply, a parent that is unhappy with their child's IEP, an educational assistant with whom you are having some conflict with. The strategies used in this problem solving plan are merely good life long skills to have.


  1. Clearly state the problem.
  2. Know what the obstacles are related to the problem.
  3. Determine what you have control over and what you don't.
  4. Make sure you have ALL the information you need.
  5. Identify all of your options and implement the best option for a solution.

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