Definition of Problem Solving
What Constitutes Problem Solving In a Medical Curriculum?
Problem Solving is the set of skills involved in confronting questions, seeking resources and gathering helpful information, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing results. Depending on the demands of the problem and the expertise of the learner, this process may take anywhere from minutes to years.
From the Red Book—Physicians for the Twenty First Century—Curriculum Guide, Problem Solving is defined by the following criteria: The competent graduate:
- Recognizes that a problem exists
- Characterizes a problem clearly and objectively
- Examines the problem from different points of view
- Collects and integrates necessary information
- Generates and analyzes a set of potential solutions
- Formulates an informed plan of action to address the problem
- Implements a solution
- Assesses results
Students do demonstrate problem solving abilities in formal examination settings. But in the curriculum of a medical school, the teaching and assessing of problem solving abilities is designed to insure that students can, and will, use all of their potential to help patients in applied settings (real time and mock situations). This means being able to understand the patient illness, gather the best information and tests, seek the advice of experts, formulate a diagnosis, plan a treatment and monitor results.
Of course, these skills involving a patient illness can be directly taught, observed and assessed toward the end of medical school training and in residency. In the earlier undergraduate years, especially in the basic science years, as the student knowledge base is developed, the teaching and assessing of problem solving skills can involve indirect simulations of the patient encounter experience, like Problem Based Learning case studies on paper, or other exercises using problems requiring the demonstration of the same skills applied to understanding basic science principles.
21st Century Problem Solving—SureMath
This is general website devoted to problem solving in mathematics at all levels of education, but there are plenty of examples where the principles of problem solving are discussed.