Critical Thinking Lesson 8. Lesson 8 Objectives Become a better problem solver by Identifying the problem Identifying alternatives Identifying advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives Finding a solution Evaluating the solution. The Problem-Solving Method .
Lesson 8 Objectives
Become a better problem solver by
Identifying the problem
Identifying advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives
Finding a solution
Evaluating the solution
Problem solving is one of the most powerful of human thinking patterns, and writing is one of the main systems we use to analyze problems and propose solutions.
In order to propose an insightful solution to a problem in writing, you need to do the following:
Define the problem clearly.
Analyze the problem systematically.
Propose a well-reasoned solution.
Whether you’re addressing a problem in your own life or in your community, the five-step problem-solving method — outlined on the next slide — can be a helpful tool.
Step 1: What is the problem?
What do I know about the situation?
What results am I seeking in this situation?
How can I define the problem?
Step 2: What are the alternatives?
What are the boundaries of the problem situation?
What alternatives are possible within these boundaries?
Step 3: What are the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative?
What are the advantages?
What are the disadvantages?
What additional information do I need in order to evaluate this alternative?
Step 4: What is the solution?
Which alternative(s) will I pursue?
What steps can I take to act on this/ these alternative(s)?
Step 5: How well is the solution working?
What is my evaluation?
What adjustments are necessary?
Because of the many factors that contribute to social problems, such as poverty or drug abuse, it can be daunting to attempt trying to solve them.
The famous newspaperman H. L. Mencken once said, “To every complex question there is a simple answer — and it’s wrong!” Making sense of a complex, challenging situation is not a simple process.
However, by working through complex problems thoughtfully and systematically, we can achieve a deeper understanding of their many interacting elements as well as develop and implement strategies for solving them.
A problem-solving approach to writing can assist you in generating ideas and organizing information for most subjects.
You can look at a writing assignment as a problem and use a modification of the five-step method as a way to work on it:
What exactly is the assignment? What is its purpose?
What are some alternative ways to complete it? Who is the obvious audience, and what other possible audiences should I consider?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives? Am I prepared to change my subject or thesis if my initial approach doesn’t work?
What is the best way for me to complete this assignment? How can I use conversations and peer review to gain additional perspectives?
After some drafting ask: How is my solution to the problem of the assignment working out?
In this Lesson you’ll write a paper in which you apply the five-step problem-solving method to a local, national, or international problem or to a personal problem. (See the text for more detailed guidelines.)
The Writing Situation
Purpose: You can use this opportunity to learn about a major problem in order to arrive at the best possible solution — and thus become a better-informed citizen. Also, you will be practicing the creative and critical thinking involved in the problem-solving model.
Audience: While working through the problem-solving model, you will be your own audience in the sense that you will be describing the problem and working through the alternative solutions. Your instructor remains the audience who will judge how well you have analyzed the problem.
The Writing Situation, Continued
Subject: Select a problem that you care about, one that is challenging — but compelling — to write about.
Writer: You have an opportunity here to learn more about a problem that you care about, but perhaps do not know enough about to propose a solution. You will use both online and print resources to increase your knowledge of the problem. If your instructor asks or allows you to write about a personal problem, you might not have to do as much research, but you will have the opportunity to work out something that is of immediate concern. Equipped with the problem-solving model and the direction it provides, you should work as a confident writer as you complete this assignment.
The Writing Process
NOTE: See pages 467-469 of the text for more detailed suggestions for the writing process.
Generating Ideas: Your first task will be to indentify the local, national, international or personal problem that you want to write about.
If you are not writing about a personal problem, apply the problem-solving model to the problem in question, answering each question on the basis of your current knowledge. This will help you determine what additional information you need before you can start writing.
If you choose to write about a personal problem, begin by brainstorming a list of problems you now face. Once you’ve identified a problem you want to write about, apply the questions from the five-step problem-solving model to your problem.
The Writing Process, Continued
Defining a Focus: Write a thesis statement in which you state explicitly that you are going to explore a problem-solving situation. Here are a few examples for you to refer to:
After thinking about the problem carefully, I realize that I have only two possible choices.
Newton’s possible solutions to its budget problem include raising more revenue, cutting the budget, or some combination of the two.
After carefully weighing the alternatives, raising more revenue while continuing to cut the budget appears to be the best choice.
The Writing Process, Continued
Organizing Ideas The five-step method for solving problems fits well with the essay structure:
Your description of the problem, along with any background information your audience will need in order to understand the problem, will give you an introduction that can include your thesis statement.
Each of the alternative solutions, explained in as much detail as possible, along with advantages and disadvantages, will provide one section of the body (one or more paragraphs).
Your determination of the best solution, and the rationale behind it, will provide a conclusion.
The Writing Process, Continued
Drafting Begin with the easiest paragraph to draft. Keep your written answers to each part of the problem-solving model in front of you. Remember to begin each section of the body with a topic sentence that names the alternative solution being considered.
Revising, Editing, and Proofreading: Use the step-by-step method in Chapter 6 on pages 169–171 to revise your essay and prepare a final draft.