This is a teaching method that is concerned with the identification of a particular problem for students to tackle with little guidance. Problem-solving consists of identifying and selecting problems growing out of the experiences of individual learners placing these problems before them and guiding the learners in their solution (Okorie 1986).
Problem-solving simply consists of constantly placing before the learner’s concrete, true-to-life, worthwhile, clearly defined problematic situations for a solution. In most cases, the teacher needs to suggest problems or suggest areas in which the learners may find appropriate problems.
This is necessary to guide the students such that they select those problems they could tackle with the available resources within their reach. For, instance, the mathematics teacher may guide the students to proffer solutions to the problem of student’s poor performance in mathematics in school.
After the learner has selected the problem, the teacher would guide him to develop a fair knowledge of what he intends to accomplish. The learner would be guided as well to gather the necessary data for the solution to the problem.
Guidelines for a problem-solving approach
There are no good things in life that will not have a guideline. An outline of sequence to guide classroom teacher who wants to employ problem-solving approach are as follows:
1. Identify the problem.
The learner should be guided to identify the problems, issues, or questions which require answers or solutions. For example, the students should be able to identify the problems and issues that can come their way when they are learning the subject “Marketing”. Not only to just introduce the topic and discuss it.
If problems or issues such as “how to persuade, convince, and negotiate deals”, how to plan, and market to generate leads, and how to get people or customers to buy or show interest in a product or service come up, the teacher should be able to answer the questions. If a teacher can explain the questions, it means that he tends to solve the problems.
2. Define the problem.
The learner should be guided to define and delimit the problem. Any problem that arises from students should be defined by the teachers and the teachers also should guide the students to define and delimit the problem themselves. For example, a mathematics teacher should teach the students the steps he or she takes to arrive at their final answers.
And he or she should allow them to do the same subject by themselves. Also, an English teacher who teaches “the rules of concord” should teach the students how he or she gets to know the rules and how those work in the subject. And the teacher should allow the students to do the subject by themselves.
3. Collect the data.
The teacher should collect other evidence that may help him solve the problem. Data help to get the correct results in the analysis. The work of the teacher is not complete until he or she collects data. For example, a teacher should find out how a student always scores zero in his or her subject. He or she has to collect data through observations, interviews, questionnaires, etc.
By doing this, the teacher should know whether the student is academically poor, is playful, or has a family problem that affects his/her academics, or poor background, or psychological problem, or any others. The data obtained will the teacher form course hypotheses.
4. Propose the hypothesis.
The teacher should propose and try a hypothesis for the solution to the problem. After the problem has been identified by the teacher, he or she will propose the hypothesis. For example, if the teacher gets to know through the analysis of the data that the student’s poor performance is a result of a family issue, then the teacher will try to bring out the result and see how he or she can solve the issue of family issues.
5. Check the results.
The teacher should check the results and if the solution is supported then the problem is solved, but if rejected, the procedure is revised and the process repeated until the problem is solved, or he gives up. For example, if the problem of the student’s poor performance is a family issue, the first that a teacher will do is to involve the school management in the matter, whether to call the family for a meeting or tackle it in another way.
After the step has been done and the parents change and the child’s performance changes too, then the problem is solved. But if the parents do not change there is no how the child’s performance can change. What to do again is to find other ways to persuade the parents to take good care of their child so that their child’s performance can be better.
Advantages of problem-solving method
There are advantages of the problem-solving method over other teaching methods because this method requires a practical step. Some of them are discussed below.
1. Relating to a true-to-life situation
Problem-solving method allows students to relate class work to true-to-life situations. For example, a mechanical engineer should be able to relate what he learns in building a car to life.
2. Providing learners with a chance to learn
Problem-solving method provides learners with a chance to learn from their successes and failures. For example, this method will provide a learner who fails a subject with a chance of how he fails or who passes a subject with a chance of how he passes it.
3. Leading to a real learning
Problem-solving method leads to real learning and understanding because it allows the learners to become involved in their learning. For example, a student who studies Electrical and Electronics will have to be involved in the practical aspect of the subject.
4. Encouraging creativity
Problem-solving encourages creativity on the part of the learners. For example, this method encourages you to be creative. A student who learns and reads well may transfer that knowledge to writing books. The rules of languages he or she learns will be the source for him or her to be creative.
5. Allowing independent learning
Problem-solving allows independent learning and individual learners to go at their own rate. This is also like being creative. Creativity is to do what other people have not done before or make what has not existed before. But pendant learning occurs when you can think on your own to be productive.
Disadvantages of problem-solving methods
No matter how good something is, it will still have weaknesses. There are some disadvantages of the problem-solving method we can still bring out. Some of them are outlined below.
1. It takes a longer time than expected.
It is because the problem-solving method requires a practical aspect; there is a tendency that take a longer time. The practical aspect of solving issues and problems takes time to conclude for better results.
2. It requires too much guidance.
The teacher or learner needs much to do in terms of guidance before the students or learners can get the whole thing, especially the practical aspect.
3. The teacher may solve the problem for the learner.
At times, the student might solve part of the problems if care is not taken and there is too much guidance.
4. The problem may not be of interest to the learner.
At times, students may be confused and thus give up if the problem is not of interest to the learner.