Problem Solving Skills Rubric
Problem Solving Methodology*
0. Engage in the problem (motivation)
- I can do it!
- I want to do it!
1. Define the problem - Rubric for evaluating your performance on Step 1
- Read the problem statement again
- Define what the problem states in a way that makes sense to you
- Sketch the information given in the problem
- List what is given / known
- List any constraints
- Define a criterion for judging the final product (design) / answering the question (problem)
- Determine the real objective of the problem (ex. what do I need to calculate?)
2. Explore the problem - Rubric for evaluating your performance on Step 2
- Examine any issues involved
- Make all the necessary assumptions that will help you simplify the problem enough, so you can solve it using familiar theories.
- Guestimate the answer
- Albert Einstein quote
3. Plan the solution - Rubric for evaluating your performance on Step 3
- Select appropriate theory, principles, approach
- Map out any sub-problems
- List what needs to be found
- Write down all equations you need to carry out each step of the solution but do not substitute any numbers
- Draw free-body diagrams and control volumes as necessary
4. Implement the plan - Rubric for evaluating your performance on Step 4
- Substitute numbers into equations as necessary and carry out all calculations
- You may want to calculate several intermediate numerical results to make sure they make sense; it is difficult to pinpoint an error when all you have is the final numerical result and you know it can't be right!
5. Check the solution
- Check the accuracy of the calculations (redo)
- Check the units of the calculated parameters
6. Evaluate / Reflect on the Solution as well as on your Problem - Solving Process - Rubric for evaluating your performance on Step 6
- Is the answer reasonable? Does it make sense?
- Were the assumptions appropriate?
- How does it compare to guestimate?
- How could you improve your model to increase its accuracy?
- If appropriate, ask the question: is it socially / ethically acceptable?
- What were my strengths in solving this problem?
- What were my weaknesses in solving this problem?
- In what specific ways can I work on my weaknesses and improve my problem-solving skills?
*Woods D.R., Hrymak, A.N., Marshall, R.R., Wood, P.E., Crowe, C.M., Hoffman, T.W.,
Wright, J.D., Taylor, P.A.,
Woodhouse, K.A., Bouchard, C.G.K., Developing problem-solving skills: The McMaster problem-solving program.
ASEE J of Engng Educ., 86, 2, 75-91 (1997).