Learning is an integral part of childhood, especially when a child enters preschool or kindergarten. Just like adults, children too have to deal with everyday problems, though they may be small in nature. The role of a teacher in problem solving learning in a child is vital, as the problem solving skills children learn during childhood, when developed over time, can help a great deal throughout their adult life.
In this article:
- Problem Solving as a Teaching Strategy
- How to Develop Problem Solving Skills in a Child?
- The Important Role of a Teacher in Problem Solving Learning
- The 3 Key Facilitating Factors in Learning Problem Solving Skills
Problem Solving as a Teaching Strategy
When implemented well as a teaching strategy by the educator, the technique of problem-solving helps children to find solutions not only for problem situations, but also for confusions and dilemma that they face in their day-to-day tasks or life.
As an instructional practice to help young children learn, Problem Solving serves as a foundation on which many learning and concepts can be built upon.
While opportunities for implementing problem-solving technique occurs almost on a day-to-day basis, the educator handling young children should leverage, carefully, a child’s own life experiences in the social, emotional and cognitive arenas to solve real life problems.
Most of all, educators should encourage children to implement their problem skills, on an ongoing basis, as part of their lifelong learning.
How to Develop Problem Solving Skills in a Child?
To teach a child to problem solve, they just have to be presented with problems arising out of everyday situations around them and their environment.
Children, as we know, are a bundle of curiosity coupled with energy. When presented with a problem therefore, a child will try to:
- Formulate ideas
- Try out those ideas
- Accept or reject the ideas
- Interact with others about their problem situation and idea they are trying out, and
- Explore social relationships that may help solve their problem situation/s.
In the process of trying out their many ideas, rejecting the ideas that don’t work as desired (most of them) and interacting with others with the intention to solve a problem situation; children actually end up learning and developing problem solving skills.
As rightly absorbed by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development, a child understands better when he or she discovers or invents something by herself or himself.
He further adds that the discovery or invention is possible only by implementing the technique to problem solve and go through the process. In other words, without the intent to solve a problem situation, a discovery or invention does not and cannot arise
Many research studies have also concluded that problem-solving serves as an effective vehicle for active learning in children and helps them through the course of their adult life.
The Positive Learning Dispositions
Though problem-solving skills is the foundation for all learning and development arenas in children, including the development of 3Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) and its related competence, this pedagogy assists them in developing a range of positive learning dispositions, namely: initiative, self-confidence, social skills, responsibility and resilience.
The Important Role of a Teacher in Problem Solving Learning in Children
The role of a teacher in problem solving learning in a child is not the same as the normal or regular role of imparting of learning in children. The instructional practice of problem-solving is something that has to be modeled by the educator himself/herself in the classroom and the school environment.
It is also important that schools train their teachers on how to focusing on children’s metacognition and working memory, so that they can gain specific abilities involved in learning problem solving skills.
When it comes to imparting problem solving skills in a child, the educator should see themselves more as a facilitator of learning in children, rather than looking at themselves as a teacher.
Most of all, the facilitator should be clear as a crystal, that they are not there to provide answers, readily served on a platter, to all the problems the children are facing. Rather, they should just articulate a problem clearly and succinctly to the children and discuss solutions with them.
As the famous saying goes: “Questions are the answers.” In other words, asking children the right questions is the best way to help them find them the answers – on their own.
The questions can be something as simple as: “Dear children, Sheila accidentally spilled her lunch on the floor this morning. She does not have lunch for her to eat. So what shall we do? How do you think can we make sure that she too has her lunch today?”
By articulating the problem situation and seeking solutions from the children, doesn’t matter whether it is 5 children or 15, the children immediately get into the process of problem-solving.
In adopting exercising problem solving as an instructional practice therefore, the role of the facilitator is three-fold:
- Value the process of problem solving that children undergo and experience
- Show them and make them see your willingness to trust them, and
- Establish and maintain an atmosphere that enthuses and encourages them to solve the problem at hand.
Additionally, t also becomes important that the educator should also have and demonstrate an attitude of his/her willingness to learn from the children themselves, by being a keen observer, being very inquisitive and by asking them questions.
The 3 Key Facilitating Factors in Learning Problem Solving Skills
To actively learn problem solving skills, it has to be practiced on an ongoing basis. Thankfully, an individual faces problem situations almost on a regular basis, if not on a daily basis.
The most fundamental role of a teacher in problem solving learning for children is to ensure the atmosphere in the classroom is comfortable and the children are provided all the supplies the need.
The (other) 3 key facilitating factors in learning problem solving skills are:
Adequate time has to be provided to the children to make their choices, discuss various alternatives and accept or reject alternatives through their own evaluation post trial-and-error.
For example, you may choose to increase the time meant for playing building blocks to best suit and facilitate the problem solving process so that the children may find the solution. The very realization of the children that they do have some more time to identify and resolve problems can boost their enthusiasm to find the solution quickly and facilitate a more effective process.
However, if the children take too much time, it is important that you use this case as a reminder to them just before they are given any new problem solving sessions in the future. Just let them know that finding a solutions is not, does not and cannot happen without any time frame. They should be clear that problem solving is a time-bound process and it would lose its purpose if there were no set time limits.
While it is a fact that problem-solving skill among children gets enhanced if the solution finding process is carried out as a team project, it also becomes important that adequate space is provided within the classroom setting to facilitate inter (within a team) and intra-team (one team with another team/other teams) discussions and meetings.
For example, easily movable writing tables that are light in weight (yet sturdy) have to be kept in the class to facilitate the children to sit in a groups and discuss. This is another way of elevating their energy and enthusiasm and participate actively. It just makes them feel happy. It is as simple as that.
However, the facilitator observing the children in group work should also assess the patterns of movement within the class and address it if it hinders a particular/some of the groups completing the task.
3. Open-ended Materials
The materials that are provided in the classroom should strictly follow the three fundamental principles of play equipment, namely:
Children should be able to easily access storage units that are labeled. When a variety of materials are provided for children, it facilitates them to try out the diverse options available and use them innovatively too, which in turn promotes problem solving.
The role of a teacher in problem solving learning for young children in a classroom setting cannot be emphasised enough, as it plays a major role to develop one of the most important skills children need to acquire not only for their childhood days but for their entire life!
The best outcome of learning problem solving skills is that it enhances positive dispositions in children, especially self-confidence, perseverance and resilience. Most of all, thanks to the time they spend in group activities and discussions, it helps them gain social skills; which in turn helps them appreciate the concept of interdependence.
Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.