Uploaded by Francis Antoine

HWATT BInvProbSolv

School of the Built Environment
The Problem Solving Process*
1. Understand the problem
o Identify the problem - unknown
 What are you asked to find/solve?
o Known
 Define Terms
 Assumptions
 Other previous knowledge
 Relevant/irrelevant information
o Unknown
 Gather further information
2. Devise a plan
o Sketch a picture or a diagram
o Determine operations
o Take a risk
"Behold the turtle for he does not move forward without sticking out his neck."
3. Carry out the plan
o Write out steps
o Perform operations
4. Evaluate
o Is the problem solved?
o Is it reachable?
*Source: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/pbl/ubuytutor/process.html (Accessed 19/01/04)
School of the Built Environment
Problem Solving Method for Students**
Effective problem-solving requires an orderly approach. Problem-solving skills do not
magically appear in students as a result of instructors simply throwing problems at them.
Some students use the following heuristic (ie, problem-solving tool): “How to make a
DENT in a problem: Define, Explore, Narrow, Test.”
(1) Define the Problem Carefully
What exactly are you trying to determine? Does the problem have several
components? If several, state them separately. Does everyone in the group agree
with the way the problem has been framed? Ask group members to “think out
loud,” as that slows down their reasoning and enables people to check for errors of
(2) Explore Possible Solutions
Brainstorm ideas that may contribute to a solution. Justify your ideas to group
members. Clarify for them the technology involved. Have them paraphrase your
ideas. Listen carefully to the ideas of other group members and give positive
feedback. Make a list of learning issues. What do we know? What don’t we
know? Is this problem analogous to any past problem? What core building
concepts may apply to this problem? Assign research tasks within the group.
(3) Narrow Your Choices
After developing a list of hypotheses, sort them, weed them, and rank them. List
the type of data required to test each hypothesis. Give priority to the simplest,
least costly tests. It is easier to get information on the condition of a building than
it is to do sophisticated laboratory tests on materials.
(4) Test Your Solution
Seek from your instructor/tutor the data that you need to test your ideas. If all
your possible solutions are eliminated, begin the cycle again: define, explore,
narrow, test. When you encounter data that confirm one of your hypotheses you
may be asked to write a technical explanation of your solution and justify it using
the available evidence. In other words, you must adopt the scientific method if
you want to ensure that your results are reliable.
**Source: http://www.saltspring.com/capewest/pbl.htm (Accessed 19/01/04)
School of the Built Environment
What is the Scientific Method?
In scientific and other related disciplines, investigators and researchers follow a process known as
the Scientific Method, a methodology that usually involves four stages:
1. First is the Observation stage. The study of any phenomenon must start with the
collection of data (ie, quantifiable information and observations) and their systematic
2. Second is the Generalization stage. Not all data related to some event can ever be
observed, as this would involve an infinite number of observations of the occurrences of a
particular phenomenon. It is usually desired to draw conclusions without waiting for
future occurrences. Thus, it is assumed that the facts obtained in the previous stage are a
fair sample, and that a generalized statement about them can be made. This generalized
statement is a tentative scientific theory or proposition, which is yet unproved – in other
words a hypothesis.
3. Third is the Verification stage. If the hypothesis is a useful one, likely to become a valid
scientific law, it will have a wider range of applications than that covered by the original
observations. It can be used as a model from which to predict expected occurrences in
this broader realm. This newly deduced information must then be tested in order to
determine whether it is, in fact, correct. If the confirmation agrees with the prediction, the
hypothesis becomes firmly established as a rule or law.
4. Fourth and last is the Application stage. Once the Verification stage has been completed
and the hypothesis validated, the scientific law can be used to predict, with confidence,
future results. These results may then be used to expand the scope of the original