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Graduate Skill - Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Problem solving uses thinking skills that are critical, lateral and creative by utilising comprehension, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, logical reasoning and the design of alternative courses of action. It depends on a basis of sound contextual knowledge and understanding. Problem solving is a process that uses a methodological approach which varies depending on the context and goal.

A systematic approach provides a framework to structure problem solving and effective approaches have steps or stages in common:

  1. Identifying and defining the problem.
  2. Collecting and analysing data.
  3. Identifying and formulating potential solutions.
  4. Assessing and synthesising solutions for plan of action.
  5. Applying plan of action.
  6. Evaluating results.

Problem solving affects each aspect of everyday life, be it private or public, individual or groups and is considered as a fundamental skill for use in today’s work place. A natural extension of a focus on problem solving is problem-based learning in which students begin with a problem (rather than input from the lecturer or tutor). Students utilise their prior knowledge to understand the problem before beginning to research the problem and potential solutions until new understandings are reached.

How is it shown?

An effective problem solver:

  • Analyses a task using a systematic method selected from a range of approaches.
  • Applies knowledge and is prepared to construct new knowledge during the problem solving process.
  • Combines a variety of strategies and techniques to resolve problems.
  • Analyses, generates and transmits solutions to unpredictable, real world and sometimes complex problems.

Progression of learning activities


  • Identifies and defines minor problems in given case studies.
  • Applies problem solving strategies that have been modelled.
  • Solves basic discipline specific-problems.


  • Applies and justifies effective reasoning strategies.
  • Reflects and elaborates on the range of problem solving strategies and techniques applicable to different contexts.
  • Chooses from a range of strategies a method to solve discipline specific problems.


  • Hypothesises and designs strategies that solve identified, complex, open-ended problems.
  • Draws on research and best practice to propose new solutions to contemporary problems.
  • Demonstrates well developed judgement in analysis and synthesis of information and transmits solutions.
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