Problem solving: superare le difficoltà comprendendo la natura di un problema

problem solving

Problem solving in ambienti tecnologicamente avanzati.

Definition of the domain
Problems and problem solving
A problem is usually defined as a situation where a person cannot immediately and routinely achieve his or her goals due to some kind of obstacle or challenge. The ability to solve problems is considered to be one of the most complex and sophisticated aspects of human cognition. In order to solve a problem, individuals must first become aware of a difference between the current state of affairs and the state of affairs that corresponds to the satisfaction of their goals. In other words, they must come to an understanding of the nature of the problem.

Problem solving e problem finding.

This is also called “problem finding”. Individuals then need to engage in a series of thought processes and concrete actions in order to define a set of sub-goals and steps through which the problem may be solved (also called planning or “problem shaping”), and perform the actions required to attain those sub-goals until the situation reaches a satisfactory state. Throughout the problem-solving activity, individuals must monitor their progress and, where necessary, reconsider their goals and actions. For instance, individuals may face an unexpected outcome or find themselves at an impasse. In such cases, they may have to reconsider their understanding of the problem or the actions they have decided to take in order to solve the problem.

Problem solving: strumenti e informazioni.
problem solving

Problem solving also normally requires the use of a range of tools and information resources. Tools and technologies normally facilitate the resolution of the problem. They may, however, add to the difficulty of a problem, especially when a person has limited knowledge and experience using the given tools and technologies.

In concrete, everyday situations, problems and problem solving often involve interaction with other individuals. A person may be asked to solve a problem for another person and may need to receive information or advice from another person, or may want to communicate the solution to someone else. Communicating in spoken or written form (e.g. comprehending instructions, asking questions or explaining) may be one of the actions necessary to solve the problem. Thus, communication skills must be considered a factor in assessing problem-solving skills. In technology-rich environments, several powerful tools for rapid (e.g. e-mail and chat software) and broad (e.g. blogs, shared applications) communication are available, thus enabling collaborative problem-solving activities for many people in different locations. Such tools require special skills for computer-mediated communication.

Problem solving: riflettere sulla situazione.

From a cognitive perspective, problem solving involves a complex hierarchy of processes and skills. The core characteristic of problem solving is that it is impossible for a person to achieve the goal through routine actions. In problem solving, one has to reflect on the situation in order to identify the proper arrangement of decisions and actions that may lead to a solution. Thus, the status of problems is conditional and based on a person’s familiarity with the problem or category of problems. Some activities initially experienced as problem solving may become routine activities over time with learning and practice.
Regardless of a person’s ability level, some problems are intrinsically more complex than others. Dimensions of problem complexity include: the clarity of the initial situation; the number of sub-goals and steps needed to solve the problem; the amount of information to be considered; and the pragmatic constraints that surround the person’s activity (e.g. time constraints, level of stakes or hazard, probability of unexpected events or outcomes, etc).

Problemi chiusi o aperti.

The complexity of a problem also varies as a function of the arrangement of informational and other resources in the problem-solving environment.

Research on problem solving has also established distinctions between types of problems. One important distinction is between closed and open problems. In closed problems, the resources (e.g. objects, tools) available and the range of possible actions are limited. An example is a chess game in which the possible moves are limited by the size of the chessboard and the rules of the game. In other problems, the potential resources and possible actions are, in principle, unlimited. Finding one’s way in an unfamiliar city or designing a new kitchen may be considered open problems.
Another important distinction is between well-defined and ill-defined problems. Well-defined problems provide a clear solution path. There is no straightforward link, however, between the definition of a problem and its absolute level of difficulty. Sometimes ill-defined problems are easy to solve because they allow several solution paths. That said, ill-defined problems also require the problem solver to set up appropriate sub-goals and operators and select appropriate resources, which may increase the difficulty of the problem.