Competence in Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

First, I'm going to get very technical and very didactic about the nature of the creative problem solving process. I am doing this here, instead of inside the Certified Facilitator of Adult Learning Course because I believe it is important to get some facts out.

Problem Solving is a skill that is not naturally born in someone - it's not a "you have it or you don't".

Problem Solving is a learned behavior, a learned set of responses to the environment around you.

Anyone can be taught how to become a Problem Solver!

I recently read an article about the non-problem solver.  You know, the person who just "doesn't get it", and who you must repeat the same specific instructions to over and over again and who is continuously asking questions that you have previously answered. In essence the non-productive worker or the ineffective professional. The article concluded by saying: "Don’t think you can change a Non-Problem Solver either. You can’t.  They are wired this way.  They have been failing at solving problems their whole lives and you won’t be the person that changes it",  (the author did not sign his or her name to the article).  I don't believe this is true.  And I will attempt to prove it below.

Are you ready?  Follow me!

Years ago I taught in a Competency Based, Problem Solving Curriculum in a major University. What I taught is not important. But HOW I taught is.  The director of the program believed that every student could learn and use creative thinking and problem solving skills. That, in fact, the Only way to be Competent in any field of work, or professional discipline, was to be great at the Creative Problem Solving Process.

This chart shows the Steps everyone goes through in the creative problem solving process. The people who have mastered the skill of problem solving use these steps so naturally that they probably could not tell you what they were. It was my job at the University to work with students who were failing courses, not because they didn't know the information, but because they didn't know how to use the information. That required me to look closely at what was going on in the minds and emotions of problem solvers vs non-problem solvers. I discovered a pattern of thoughts and beliefs that were different between the two groups’ critical thinking skills at each step of the process.

Please take a moment to look at the Flow Chart which highlights the different thinking processes of problem solvers vs. non-problem solvers before we move on.

Problem solving vs Non Problem Flow Cjhart
how problem solvers and non problem solvers think

At first glance, this second chart may seem identical to the first. But look Closely. I've added a funny little (c) kind of things at the end of each sentence. Those funny little Letters and Numbers signify the Level or Skill of Thinking or Attitude required for Each stage of the Problem Solving Process.  Here's where I'd like to introduce you to Dr Benjamin Bloom.

Dr. Bloom was a psychologist in the 1950's and created a taxonomy to guide teachers in promoting higher forms of thinking in education. He was attempting to guide teaching away from Rote Learning (memorizing and remembering facts), towards educations life skills, like the ability to analyze a situation and then take appropriate action - the ability to problem solve!

In 1956, working with a committee, The Three Domains of Learning and accompanying educational activities were defined.

Cognitive: mental skills (knowledge)
Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (attitude or self)
Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (skills)

Today, Bloom's Taxonomy is most often used when designing educational, training, and learning processes for both adults and children.

Blooms taxonomy

If you are still with me, and haven't given up, CONGRATULATIONS.  You may be interested in learning more about the creative problem solving process by enrolling in the Certified Facilitator of Adult Learning course.

NOTE: This is the point that marketers suggest a Call to Action - that I should get your email in order to conclude the story. That way I can bug you to continue and take the course. But my mind doesn't work that way.  If this information helps you, wonderful. If it sparks your interest, great.  If you want to learn more about how to teach for Competence in Problem Solving, then by all means, enroll in the Certified Facilitator of Adult Learning Course.

The final chart I'm providing looks at the levels of objectives and their progression in relation to Problem Solving. You now have the key to understanding that C1 means knowledge and that C4, analysis, is a more complex skill than just knowing about something. A1 is an attitude of paying attention, while A3 is an attitude of valuing.


Bottom line - here's how this knowledge helps in Teaching and Learning.

If I only give a lecture or provide written information to a person learning a new skill, I can't expect them to become proficient in that skill. They will require learning experiences that guide them in how to:

  • Analyze the task to see what the components are
  • Relate their own values to the values required for the task or job
  • Open their minds to think in new ways
  • Stretch their minds to look at relationships of one thing to another differently
  • Think Creatively and Problem Solve.
Domains of Learning

If you've hung around this far, I believe that taking the Certified Facilitator of Adult Learning Course is for you. It will enable you to practice these cognitive and affective critical thinking skills while writing your own course, about anything, It may be a training program for your business. A CEU program for your Profession. A hobby that you want to teach. The possibilities are limitless.

If you are on this site to take our Personal Empowerment courses (currently under development), know that they are created with the same principles in mind and will involve you in each topic. We plan to have some of the Empowerment courses ready by Spring, 2020,

May you Be Well, May you Be Happy

Dr. Jill N. Henry, EdD

© 3/26/2020 by Jill Newman Henry, EdD  All rights reserved. Use contact form on to request permission to reprint.

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