Problems to solve

Problems to solve

Problem solvers

  • Identify the problem
  • Understand the obstacles to overcome in solving the problem
  • Come up with possible solutions
  • Prioritize and evaluate different solutions
  • Select a solution


  1. I Identify the problem
  2. D Define and represent the problem
  3. E Explore possible strategies or solutions
  4. A Act on a selected approach or solution
  5. L Look back and evaluate

Student needs and skill sets

  • What classroom tasks or activities support problem-solving?
  • How will students learn skills to identify a complex problem that requires higher order thinking?
  • How will students know not to over-think the solution?
  • What process will students use to read and understand complex issues?


  1. Ability to understand the task before solving
  2. Question the problem to gain an understanding
  3. Understand the issue
  4. Make sense of relevant information

Strategies need to be taught, modeled, and practiced regularly.

Appropriate strategies deliver better work product and are easier to grade or evaluate.

Sample strategies

  • Creating lists
  • Organizing thinking with outlines
  • Graphic organizers
  • Note-taking skills

Problem-solving skills take years to develop

  • Understand relevant information
  • Ability to identify non-relevant information
  • Modeling and independent practice
  • Understand how to value and trust information
  • Know how to use background information

Critical independent thinkers

Excessive support and structure do not support thinking.

Structured tasks

Structured tasks usually have one correct answer and follow a set process to solve. Solving a structured task does not support or require high levels of thinking.

Structured tasks can be difficult, but higher order thinking requires complexity.

Unstructured tasks

Unstructured tasks usually have more than one correct answer and require students to justify their thinking. Real-life situations are informal or unstructured.

Real world tasks

  • Involve ambiguities
  • Need more than one source of information
  • Judge value of information.
  • Use close reading skills

Source: How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom – Brookhart