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Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
Chinese proverb

Guide to Reflective Thinking: Problem-Solving Strategies

Use the following statements to assess your sense of competence with regard to university studies. Any weak areas indicate an attitude, ability or habit that may be worth developing.

  • I define my problem with precisionWhen I am facing a problem, I take the necessary time to fully understand what it consists of.
  • I define my goal and determine the satisfaction criteria of a good solution.
  • I take time to establish the constraints that need to be respected, limitations and obligations.
  • I research and sort all the information necessary to understand and solve the problem.
  • I plan and manage my course of actionI take the time to think about how I will proceed rather than immediately jumping into action.
  • When I am facing a complex problem, I break it into more simple sub-problems.
  • When I am on the path to a solution, I explore in an ordered, complete and systematic way.
  • When I proceed by successive trials, I take the time to note information about each trial to avoid going around in circles.
  • During my course of action, I keep in mind the yet to be explored paths, in case the one that I am on, does not lead to a valid solution.
  • When I am unsure of exactly where I stand, I pause to take stock of the situation and to summarize the accomplishments thus far.
  • I persevere even when having serious difficulties.
  • I elaborate and verify all solution hypothesesI resist the temptation of using the first solution that comes to mind.
  • I look for all possible solution options.
  • When I have more than one solution, I give myself the time to compare them according to a variety of pertinent criteria.
  • Before opting for a particular solution, I evaluate the eventual consequences.

There is no universal method for solving problems. It requires a basic knowledge of your field of study and its specific problem solving strategies. However, the art of finding valid solutions without screwing things up even more is based on some basic principles: a good understanding of the problem, a methodical approach to looking for solutions, and systematically verifying how well they're working.


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