JANET E. DAVIDSON
Lewis & ClarkCollege
ROBERT J. STERNBERG
What are the problems that you are currently trying to solve in your life?
Most of us have problems that have been posed to us (e.g., assignments
from our supervisors). But we also recognize problems on our own (e.g.,
you might have noticed the need for additional parking space in the city
where you work). After identifying the existence of a problem, we must
define its scope and goals. The problem of parking space is often seen as a
need for more parking lots or parking garages. However, in order to solve
this problem creatively, it may be useful to turn it around and redefine it as
a problem of too many vehicles requiring a space in which to sit during the
workday. In that case, you may be prompted to redefine the problem: You
decide to organize a carpool among people who use downtown parking
lots and institute a daytime local taxi service using these privately owned
vehicles. Thus, you solve the problem not as you originally posed it but as
you later reconceived it.
Problem solving does not usually begin with a clear statement of the
problem; rather, most problems must be identified in the environment;
then they must be defined and represented mentally. The focus of this
chapter is on these early stages of problem solving: problem recognition,
problem definition, and problem representation.