So Far

Let’s summarize. So far we’ve talked big picture about how people solve problems, then we dove into more detail on the component pieces of the model. How does a model like this help an instructional designer?

Real_world_problem_solving_model

First off, having a model helps me organize my own thoughts and helps me explain them to others. And it’s helpful to create my own models because it forces me to organize my thoughts. It invites reflection, which is an important ingredient in learning. For me, the whole point of this web journal is my own professional reflection.

For me, some principles readily emerge from the model. First, not everything is a training problem. Especially when governing bodies are involved, it’s tempting to blame training if things aren’t being done correctly. More training! Better training! But is that the issue, or are there structural barriers that are getting in the way?

The second big principle is that it is important to be aware of the different types of knowledge that are important to solving problems (conceptual*, procedural, and social) and ensure they are being addressed somewhere. That doesn’t mean they all need to be addressed in the classroom or in formal learning at all, so long as they are accounted for. Be intentional on where learners are supposed to pick up each type of knowledge.

Third, experience is a vital component in solving complex problems. It can be acquired via instruction where it makes sense to do so. Just make sure that wherever your learners are acquiring experience, they have sufficient support and feedback.

Four, problem solving ability can’t really be taught in the abstract. Figure out as much as possible what your learner’s specific problems are and help them to solve those problems (and teach them why it works that way so they can generalize to new problems).

In the end, the key message is coherence. Be planful that your learners are getting the support, knowledge, strategies, and experience to succeed, and succeed they will.

* Such as why the USDA recommends you cook poultry to 165 degrees F even though none of the dangerous pathogens can survive much beyond 130 degrees. According to the wonderful Cooking for Geeks, cooking to a high temperature is a substitute for cooking the meat at 135 degrees long enough to ensure all the harmful microbes expire. In theory, you could safely cook poultry at 135 degrees as long as you cook it long enough at this temperature to ensure safety. This is the basis of sous vide cooking.

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