The objective of problem based learning (PBL) is to train students on how to solve real-world problems. Actually, problem-solving skill is very important no matter you are a CEO of a big company, or a waiter/waitress in a restaurant, or a professor at a university, or a researcher in a national lab, or a policy-maker in a government, or a student at school/university. Everybody encounters problems/difficulties in his/her life. We need to learn how to solve problems in order to live a good life. While problems could differ from one to another, the list below shows, generally, a step-by-step guide on how to solve a problem.
1. Problem definition
2. Information collection and analysis
3. Implementation of solutions
First of all, we need to know what the problem is. Your desk is a mess? Cannot start your car? Insomnia? No enough money for a missionary trip? The laser of the equipment doesn’t work? Hard to communicate with others? Hate your job? Unhealthy? Unhappy? Lonely? To define the problem, usually not so difficult, is the starting point of problem-solving. Try not to avoid or ignore problems if you seriously want to solve them.
Once the problem has been identified, the focus shifts to analysis of the problem. What causes this problem? To answer this question, it could be time-consuming and frustrating in real world. We need to collect enough information by reading books, searching online, talking to friends or experienced professionals and so on. What do we know or not know about it? What do we need to know? With enough information in front of you, you begin to know what the possible causes are and get a better idea about the accurate solution. The cause could be a single one, or several possible ones. In the latter case, we need to test one by one until the true cause is found. Sometime the situation could be complicated, with different factors influencing each other. After diagnosing, we need focus our energy, time and thoughts on the solutions. Brainstorming could gather different ideas among team members or friends, which generates several different solutions that require you to choose the best one. Asking people for help or advice on what to do or what they did in similar situations could also be useful especially when you cannot solve the problem on your own (admittedly, one cannot solve every problem).
Now, it’s time to implement the solution, to try, to test whether it’ll work. Yes, it’s a great day, isn’t it? No, sad but need to be patient. No matter yes or no, it is important to evaluate the results. What did you learn from the test? Could the solution be a better one? If the problem is not solved, we may need try other solutions or repeat steps 2 to 4 until it’s solved. Also, it’s good to share or communicate with people on the successful experiences or not successful but still helpful lessons you’ve learned.
Solving real-world problems can be overwhelming, complicated and frustrating. Persistence, patience, creativity and team-spirit, are all important. Don’t give up until the problem is solved.