Problem-solving in everyday life is closely related to one’s higher-order Thinking skills. What’s clearly wrong with discourses these days on issues of importance is the irrational examination of ideas, arguments, beliefs, and conclusions. And very often, even adults find it hard to stay focused on the problem at hand and extract the answers to ‘how, what, why, and now what’ without going off on multiple tangents with arguments inconsequential to the question. And what’s visibly missing in formal education is an impetus for students to ask themselves ‘how’ they solved a problem and ‘why’ they did what they did.
Prompting students to ask themselves ‘why’ can go a long way in building self-awareness and improving their understanding of the world as they grow older. Taking what is learnt in school at face value without considering the larger context and with no overview of their own thought process is evidently antithetical to this. It is often assumed that school-going students are too young to be taught elementary principles of reasoning and questions that test these skills are confined to extra-curricular competitive exams that are meant for the brighter lot among students. But studies show that with some push, these principles can be entrenched in their thinking process.
If a student asks why he or she has to do something, insisting on replying with ‘Just do it’ kills his enthusiasm and curiosity and can plunge him towards merely trailing what is told to him. Giving them the right reasons without thrusting our perspectives on them has implications that can go as far as changing the culture of dogmatic thinking. Encouraging them to find reason in issues around them will also add value to the process.
Encouraging students to write journals will prompt them to explain their own actions. In retrospect, their day will have more to offer them than what they thought it did. Analysing common analogies, delving into the rationale behind popular phrases such as ‘There is no such thing as a stupid question’, classifying information relevant to a particular argument, identifying the key question in a problem, detecting loopholes in literary work, finding conclusions from a given set of assumptions, are all critical exercises that can foster an attitude of structuring, analysing, interpreting, and solving the issue at hand for life. What one essentially needs is a questioning mind and from what I last heard, children are inherently driven by curiosity.
By Anu Krishnan – Educational Specialist