The Power of Problem Solving
The ability to problem solve is one of the most important skills for students to learn, not only for their academic journey but for their future careers and lives in an ever-changing world. Waldorf Education encourages the development of problem-solving skills through an approach that emphasizes systems thinking and critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and in-depth subject knowledge.
This piece was originally published by the Institute of Competition Sciences.
From solving complex algebra problems to investigating scientific theories, to making inferences about written texts, problem-solving is central to every subject explored in school. Even beyond the classroom, problem-solving is ranked among the most important skills for students to demonstrate on their resumes, with 82.9% of employers considering it a highly valued attribute. On an even broader scale, students who learn how to apply their problem-solving skills to the issues they notice in their communities – or even globally – have the tools they need to change the future and leave a lasting impact on the world around them.
Problem-solving can be taught in any content area and can even combine cross-curricular concepts to connect learning from all subjects. On top of building transferrable skills for higher education and beyond, read on to learn more about five amazing benefits students will gain from the inclusion of problem-based learning in their education:
Problem-solving is inherently student-centered.
Student-centered learning refers to methods of teaching that recognize and cater to students’ individual needs. Students learn at varying paces, have their own unique strengths, and even further, have their own interests and motivations – and a student-centered approach recognizes this diversity within classrooms by giving students some degree of control over their learning and making them active participants in the learning process.
Incorporating problem-solving into your curriculum is a great way to make learning more student-centered, as it requires students to engage with topics by asking questions and thinking critically about explanations and solutions, rather than expecting them to absorb information in a lecture format or through wrote memorization.
Increases confidence and achievement across all school subjects.
As with any skill, the more students practice problem-solving, the more comfortable they become with the type of critical and analytical thinking that will carry over into other areas of their academic careers. By learning how to approach concepts they are unfamiliar with or questions they do not know the answers to, students develop a greater sense of self-confidence in their ability to apply problem-solving techniques to other subject areas, and even outside of school in their day-to-day lives.
The goal in teaching problem-solving is for it to become second nature, and for students to routinely express their curiosity, explore innovative solutions, and analyze the world around them to draw their own conclusions.
Encourages collaboration and teamwork.
Since problem-solving often involves working cooperatively in teams, students build a number of important interpersonal skills alongside problem-solving skills. Effective teamwork requires clear communication, a sense of personal responsibility, empathy and understanding for teammates, and goal setting and organization – all of which are important throughout higher education and in the workplace as well.
Increases metacognitive skills.
Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” because it refers to a person’s ability to analyze and understand their own thought processes. When making decisions, metacognition allows problem-solvers to consider the outcomes of multiple plans of action and determine which one will yield the best results.
Higher metacognitive skills have also widely been linked to improved learning outcomes and improved studying strategies. Metacognitive students are able to reflect on their learning experiences to understand themselves and the world around them better.
Helps with long-term knowledge retention.
Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how they reached their conclusions at the time of learning, by sharing their ideas and facts they have researched, helps reinforce their understanding of the subject matter.
Problem-solving scenarios in which students participate in small-group discussions can be especially beneficial, as this discussion gives students the opportunity to both ask and answer questions about the new concepts they’re exploring.
At all grade levels, students can see tremendous gains in their academic performance and emotional intelligence when problem-solving is thoughtfully planned into their learning.