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Solutions: A Guide to Problem Solving

By Murray Bourne, 01 Jan 2005

Review: Paperback
This book is about general problem solving ('in real life') but it could have applications in Problem Based Learning as used in educational institutions. It gives some good suggestions about identifying the problem and deciding what should be happening when the problem is solved. Then we assess the situation and look at causes and resources for fixing the problem. Finally, solution proposals are discussed and implementation is considered.

This may sound like statements of the obvious, but very few people follow a logical pathway to solving problems.

I agree with the author's statement (p. 1), explaining the paralysis that a lot of people (and governments) experience when confronted with a crisis:

Most people prefer an unsatisfactory present to an uncertain future.

The book includes many case studies and lots of activities that the reader is encouraged to respond to in writing. They could also be used in group problem-solving activities. The first set of activities involves a company disciplinary case - should they fire the worker?

The writers correctly point out that humans are lousy problem solvers because we are trained by systems to reject new ideas (p. 71). How often have I heard "This will never work here because..." when suggesting alternative teaching/learning strategies?

There is an interesting list of fifty questions (p. 119) to ask when solving problems (including "Who else has the problem?", "Who would be sad if the problem is solved?", "Who could prevent the problem from being solved?"). As the writers mention,

Problem solving may be nothing more than the art of asking the right questions at the right time.

Humans have evolved such that some are superb problem solvers - we need to consider why our educational institutions are producing very mediocre ones...
Interesting book, but may not be available. By Steven Phillips, 1987, ISBN: 0-88390-205-2

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