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The Importance Of Problem Solving!

To learn and not to do is really not to learn....

To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know. (Photo credit: planeta)

This post is finished.  I am done with the revising and editing; but I wanted to put it up early so a class I am teaching could use it to learn something about critical thinking.

Cognitive development continues in adult life and some of the crucial elements are the individual’s creative and learned abilities to solve problems.  Do it “My way; but nicely” as a musical comedy (The King and I) song says is the way many parents and supervisors lead.  Could it be that the problem-solving skills of these individuals are also underdeveloped not just those of their children or their supervisees?  A good work relationship requires an able boss and a good employee, an able parent and a child with undeveloped potential, an able teacher and a willing student.  In all of these equations, both the leaders and those being led have to participate and make contributions.

How do we help this along?  It is by not letting an “I can’t do this” attitude from hindering a person’s development.  Learning does not stop at 16, 21, or 35.  It goes on for a lifetime.  I realize that I have, when confronted with a barrier or an obstacle, have not taken the time necessary.   I just want to get on with it so I continue on with that detail not attended to and also on depending on someone else to do what I have not learned to do for myself and not bothering to problem solve and master what may be a new skill for me.

Obstacles and barracades are opportunities to grow and learn and to acquire new skills.  How often have you said I can’t when you probably could.  Being constantly dependent on others to do things for us which we can’t or have not learned to do for ourselves can lead to anger both at ourselves and for our helplessness and at others whose whims we see ourselves are susceptible to.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

Take on a new project.  Find one thing that you have not learned how to do for yourself and master it.  My spouse recently showed me for the nth time how to call up a missed number on the phone.  I had always depended on him to do it for me and if he wasn’t there I could get mad at myself for not knowing how to do it and at him for being in control of my life that way by not being able to return a simple phone call without him.

Now I have a growing list of things I should be able to do for myself which demands I usually met in the past with a feeble, “I can’t…”  Sometimes it is not easy; but, when mastered, these things give you more freedom to do it your way, not theirs.  Learning involves communication between pupil and teacher.  The student needs to build on what they already know in order to bridge the gap between themselves and teachers.  It is this communality that fosters learning.  The attitude, “This is so stupid.  Why can’t he learn this”, is often an example of the teacher’s tendency to give up and externalize the blame onto the student.

Finally, once you’ve solved the problem, remember to use what you have learned the next time you have that problem.  Remember practice makes perfect.  What you learn for yourself is often the best learning method.  You don’t leave any steps out or forget to define terms.  Focusing on the neuroplacity of the brain means that we can go on learning the rest of our lives.  It increases self-esteem,  it develops abilities you may be able to teach others as a legacy, it enlarges your sphere of life (now no more saying to yourself limiting yourself by saying, ” I won’t go there because I can’t do that and I am not willing to learn”.

Remember you sometimes can chose what you want to learn to do but you can’t always control others so that they will do things for you when you don’t know how.

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Integrated Learning

English: Graduate School

English: Graduate School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There needs to be a foundation of past learning on which to build new learning.  The better a person can relate to a new subject, the more likely, he or she will understand and retain the new learning.  One gift of a teacher is that he or she can find ways to connect past learning in his or her students to new learning.  Not only do teachers need the gift of knowledge about a subject that they seek to impart to their students, but also they have to know how to convey that material to their students.

I have had the experience where a professor who was very well known in her field and who had done trail blazing research was unable to pass that knowledge on in a meaningful way to her students.  It was in an advanced graduate course where all the students had been at the top of their class when they graduated from college and were successfully mastering graduate work for their advanced degrees.  She gave a test  and all of the select group of students who were taking her course did not give the answers she expected of them.  In fact, she held the students over so that she could go over the entire test and demonstrate the answers she had expected of them.  What she didn’t know was that the students had regularly been getting together in order to figure out the correct answers to questions that she had raised and thought that she answered in class.  Every lecture she gave was even more confusing than the last.  No wonder her students did not know the answers that she had expected them to give on her test.  She knew her subject, but she could not teach her subject.

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How We Learn

English: Level/Time of competence when learnin...

Two things that can help us learn:  good teachers and connection of the content to something we have learned in the past.  Having had a lot of education experiences, I have experienced both and learning is a very frustrating experience when you don’t have either.

Having studied writing, drawing, sculpture, as well as many other things, I found that while the teacher may be a good writer, a good artist, or a good musician he or she may not be able to develop those talents in others.  I have taken classes in these subjects where I was to practice doing these things that the teachers were able to do very well.; but I got no instructions on basic techniques like the use of perspective in drawing or  how to use various media like watercolors, pastels, or acrylics.  I learned to play the piano with practice, but I was not taught music theory.  Currently I am singing in a choir and learning new things about chorus work from a director for the first time who knows everything about choral work and voice.   In psychology, I had an instructor who was very famous for her research in the area that the course was to cover.  She could not teach what she knew about her work.  It was a very frustrating experience to be in her class and we did not do very well on her exams in spite of the fact that we, her pupils, were graduate students in psychology who had to successfully compete against other applicants for our positions in our class at the big ten school.

I have had the experience of learning more about a subject that I had had the good fortune of having previously studied and it was easy to integrate new knowledge with old.  I have also floundered and struggled learning a subject that I had not heard about before. When a teacher gives examples and can integrate them with people’s everyday experience, it is much easier to learn a new subject. It is also true that some people have a knack for certain kinds of subjects. I never got the hang of calculus although I had done just fine in other math classes that had been required to be taken before it.

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