Literacy and Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills are closely tied to literacy. Literacy reaches beyond the process of reading to comprehension, critical thinking and decision making, which result in better problem-solving skills. These skills are highly valued not only in the workplace, but in many aspects of our lives. We use problem solving to make difficult situations better and find new ways of doing things.

“Reading is essentially a problem-solving task. Comprehending what is read, like problem solving, requires effort, planning, self-monitoring, strategy selection, and reflection.” – Q.E.D. Foundation

Models for Problem Solving

There are many problem-solving models and strategies to help teach critical thinking. They provide step-by-step processes we can use to address a challenge. One example is the ladder of inference. Developed by two Harvard professors in the 1970s, the ladder of inference explains the process of our assumptions and ultimately how we make our decisions. The video below offers a good explanation.

Understanding how the ladder of inference works allows us to back-up and reinterpret the data we’re receiving. By examining our own ladders, we can check our assumptions and help solve disagreements and other problems we encounter day to day.

Another problem-solving and decision-making model is the SODAS method. This stands for Situation, Options, Disadvantages, Advantages, and Select the best option. This method can be used with learners by presenting different real-life scenarios and by using role-playing. Students are presented with a problem situation, identify possible options to solve the problem and weigh the disadvantages and advantages of each option before coming to a solution. This method has been found to be particularly helpful in social situations.

We know that literacy includes much more than reading and writing. Problem solving is a life skill that assists us at home, at work and in the community. It is an essential component of the modern definition of literacy. For more problem-solving strategies and methods, check out the resources below.


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