How to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Students


Learning problem-solving skills is a must for any student. Whether you’re a college prodigy or a struggling high school student, these can help you thrive in school. It’ll help you make viable solutions, no matter how straightforward or complex the issue is. However, how to develop problem solving skills in students?

From self-directed learning to creating a healthier environment, here are the best ways to develop problem-solving skills in students.

Why are Problem-Solving Skills Important for Students?

student face down on table in front of  a stack of books

Problem-solving is a crucial skill for students as it helps them find the best solutions to any situation. And it also helps in personal development, job prospects, and social contribution. So, not only is it a sought-after skill in school but also in the competitive world. It’ll help youngsters excel in all aspects of their lives.

If you’re still unconvinced, here are three more upsides of developing problem-solving skills in students:

💯 It Improves a Student’s Academic Performance

Problem-solving is vital for students because it can improve their performance in school. It can help in personal development, teaching students about discernment. As a result, they can distinguish what problems are solvable and those that aren’t. With this, students can focus on what they can work on to fix or improve at school. 

Aside from that, problem-solving also helps students develop grit. It’s a trait common among successful students, regardless of their educational level. Usually, it takes teams to solve an issue thoroughly. And since it can be nerve-wracking to ask for help as a student, start with your classroom. 

Together, you and your classmates can learn how to ask determining queries, like:

  • Do I know how to resolve this issue?
  • Why is this problem so tricky?
  • Who can help address this case?

Knowing what to ask helps students learn how to tackle problems more efficiently. After all, it lets them understand cause and effect more thoroughly. As a result, they hone their prediction skills and search for patterns. And this, in turn, develops their problem-solving skills — boosting their reflective and critical thinking!

With a sharper insight, students can find the best ways to perform better at school.

💯 It Builds Confidence in all Students

Solving problems involves making tough decisions. Usually, efficient problem-solving skills result in more confident students. After all, nothing is more thrilling than solving a problem alone. When students tackle issues alone, they’ll naturally become resilient. With this, they’ll learn to look at challenges from a fresher perspective. Thus, they make more calculated and well-thought-of risks. 

Confidence is especially crucial in younger students as it helps in their development. It turns them into more capable adults, helping them solve and adapt to different issues. So, if students embrace problem-solving more, they’ll be able to develop their situational and social awareness skills. Moreover, they’ll learn how to manage their time and patience better!

As students hone their problem-solving skills, they can use their independent and creative thinking to overcome different issues and gain confidence! And in turn, it molds their sense of independence, preparing them for life and the future better.

💯 It Helps Students Prepare for their future

Students who develop their problem-solving skills early make them appreciate lifelong learning more. This trait makes them more curious, creative, and innovative. And best of all, these youngsters can use these skills later in life, better preparing them for the future.

Employers nowadays look for individuals who think uniquely and imaginatively. After all, most issues society faces now are new!

How to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Students?

how to develop problem solving skills in students (infographic)

💡 Students Must Practice Self-Directed Learning 

Self-directed learning can help improve critical thinking in students. And this, in turn, improves their problem-solving skill as well. It inspires them to embrace their creativity and imagination more. As a result, it fosters every student’s independent thinking skills, promoting self-actualization. 

Nowadays, innovative schooling platforms apply the principles of autonomous learning in their curriculum. It’s one of the most credible and reliable ways to teach this crucial skill to students. This methodology is best suited for middle to high school students. After all, they’re the most curious and can enjoy discovery-learning while coming up with conclusions!

Teachers must act as facilitators and understand the importance of honing problem-solving skills in their students. The most efficient way to do this is to implement independent thinking time in your lessons. Encourage your students to come up with original ideas after instructional delivery. Not only will this foster your student’s reasoning skills, but it also promotes critical and divergent thinking! And all these will eventually hone their problem-solving abilities.

The best educators across accredited schools use these strategies to guide their students through problem-solving. And these improve young learners’ ability to gather, focus, interpret, and conclude info. 

💡 Take Everything One Step at a Time

It can be frustrating to face a problem at school or at home. But no matter how irritating these issues can get, be patient and take everything one step at a time. For example, revisit your past mistakes if you’re struggling with a particular problem. Ask yourself, “Have I encountered this before? If so, how did I manage to solve it back then?”

There’s a possibility you’ve done something similar before. If so, there’s no need to make it hard on yourself. You can recycle the same strategies as before to solve the issue this time!

Aside from that, I also recommend documenting what doesn’t work. After all, sometimes, finding the answer involves the process of elimination. I recommend writing down your “not the answers” before asking for help from a teacher or classmate. Doing so lets peers see your thought process and determine the best way to help you.

And if you’re not too keen on asking for help, you should be able to solve the problem yourself by doing the same thing. Eventually, you’ll discover the answer on your own!

💡 Teachers Should Encourage a Healthy and Non-Judgmental Learning Environment

Learning how to develop problem solving skills in students can surprise you. Sometimes, something as simple as encouragement is what students need to improve their problem-solving skills. 

Remember, problem-solving can help in personal development. And this, in turn, makes it easier for young learners to achieve success later in life. So, teachers should create a healthy and non-judgmental environment for their students. It’ll make them more comfortable while nurturing this core competency.

When I say non-judgmental environment, I refer to a place free from negative criticism or judgment. Let students share their opinions and ensure there’s ample positive reinforcement for their attempts. And aside from being accepting, encourage brainstorming in your class. It’s one of the best ways to develop creative solutions for less complex problems. It helps students escape from their standard ideas and embrace their creativity. 

So, teachers, support your students in their lateral or parallel thinking and appreciate all responses!

💡Students Must Improve their Decision-Making Skills

One way to hone problem-solving skills in students is by improving their decision-making skills. These are essential in solving issues, no matter how simple or complex. They help students weigh the upsides and downsides of each decision before coming up with a conclusion. 

Come up with possible alternatives in everyday scenarios to improve this skill set. You can make it fun by adding more options to daily choices like food or sports. And when you’re unsure, you can ask your teacher or parent to intervene. Doing so helps you receive logical and valid inputs. I recommend regularly doing this, so try to practice it daily or ask your teacher or parents to create such opportunities for you. 

Overall, these practices will improve your analytical and observational skills from several dimensions. And eventually, you’ll learn to research and preempt the aftermath of your choices.

💡 Teachers Should Be A Positive Role Model

As a teacher, you can help your students develop problem-solving skills via interactions. Different approaches toward resolving issues can influence your students’ abilities. They can affect the classroom atmosphere and teach in the critical habit formation phases.

So, look for the opportunities available to involve your students in or create some. Include your students in discussions requiring deep thinking. For instance, discuss how to prep for emergencies in school, like during an earthquake or fire. As a teacher, you’re likely a naturally calculated problem solver. So, embrace this trait and share your thoughts with your students logically and sequentially.

Support your students’ efforts and share your feedback about their dilemmas. Remember, developing problem-solving skills in students is crucial. So, strive to be an excellent role model for these eager minds!

💡 Teachers Should Guide and Mentor Their Students

Finally, strive to be a guide and mentor for your students. Prepare yourself to intervene when needed but never interrupt or criticize your students. As I mentioned earlier, competencies in problem-solving are best developed in a healthy and non-judgmental environment!

So, share ample positive feedback and facilitate your students throughout. And as tempting as it is to make it easier on yourself and give direct answers, don’t! Never provide your students with immediate solutions. Instead, help them throughout the process and help them come up with the possible answers.

Encourage several solutions and judgment-free opinions, and give your students enough time to come up with conclusions! And when they’re struggling, help your students get back on track by re-explaining the process. From identifying to reviewing the problem, guide your students to the right problem-solving path! With this, these eager learners should become bona fide problem solvers in no time. 

Additional Tips for Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Students for Teachers

two women in front of a laptop

For teachers struggling to help their students develop their problem-solving skills, below are tips to make it easier for you and your eager learners:

✔️ Guide Your Students, But Do Not Give the Direct Answers

As challenging as it is to watch a student struggle with a problem in class, please don’t give them a direct answer. After all, this teaches the learner to rely on another person if they get stuck with something. So, instead of giving out immediate solutions, give subtle hints at the start. It should be enough to help your students understand the issue. 

✔️ Know the Timing

I recommend teachers time the amount of time it takes their students to solve a problem. As students face the same issues in various scenarios, they’ll likely be able to find the answer. Knowing the gauge to help your students see progress provides the extra challenge of beating their best time. Doing so encourages the learner to think harder. And this, in turn, fosters their problem-solving skills better!

✔️ Let Students Read Books Focusing on One Problem

One of the best ways to mold a student’s problem-solving skills is through repetition. And there’s no better method than letting them read books revolving around one issue. These give students various scenarios with one goal. For instance, in the famous children’s book, “Where’s Waldo?” readers must find Waldo in different situations. And as the readers progress, they can pick up cues and hints to make the search easier.

There are many titles with a single focus, and all you need to do is find one that’ll intrigue your students best. 

✔️ Make Your Students Solve a Problem Requiring Several Steps

If you have older students, ranging from middle to high school, I recommend providing them with problems that need many steps to solve. It’s an excellent way to push the way they think, making them step out of their comfort zone. Ensure the main problem isn’t too challenging, but it should be tricky to solve!

An exciting and fun way to do that is by including several puzzles or sub-problems to solve the main issue. It should resemble obstacle courses, but for the mind! Overall, the aim here is for students to come up with a conclusion after completing various tasks. 

✔️ Balance Your Lessons Out with Easy and Challenging Tasks

When learning to develop problem solving skills in students, you must balance things out. I recommend providing easy and challenging tasks to encourage your students to think more but not overwhelm them. After all, solving problems can be intimidating and frustrating! 

So, include an easy task for every complex problem you provide. It’s an excellent way to offer your students a sense of accomplishment between challenging tasks. This way, they’ll stay motivated to learn and think more!

✔️ Give Your Students More Room to Work Out the Problems in their Unique Way

One of the many traits teachers must have is patience. And you’ll need a lot of it when teaching your students how to hone their problem-solving skills. I recommend giving your students more room to work out problems in their unique way. After all, the best way to learn is through trial and error!

If your student decides to tackle the easy problems first and then gets stumped by the more challenging ones, they’ll learn about pacing along the way. Students must learn to pick apart multi-step issues into chunks they can handle. And with this, your students will become natural problem-solvers in no time!

✔️ Provide Several Goals to Keep Your Students Interested

It can be challenging to keep a student interested in problem solving. After all, it is a complex skill requiring much thinking. So, to keep your student interested, I suggest providing several goals for each main issue. I recommend timing your student for each more minor task to see their progress and mistakes. From there, you can determine the best way to help your student. 

Aside from that, you can make things exciting and fun by turning these problem-solving tasks into a competition. But be sure to keep it on friendly terms and provide rewards to all your students!

✔️ Talk with Your Students Through the Problem-Solving Process

A simple yet efficient way to develop problem-solving skills in students is by talking to them through the process. After a student solves several problems, ask them how they came up with the answers. Or at least speak to the student during the problem-solving process. 

Remember, it’s all right to speak up and challenge your student’s thinking. It helps you see if your students can discover better solutions to different problems!

✔️ Provide Your Students with Positive Feedback and Critique

Students, no matter their educational level, thrive on feedback and critique. Problem-solving skills, in particular, are challenging to develop. So, it’s best to encourage your students to explore their creativity better by providing feedback and critique. Strive to help your students find better ways to resolve issues. 

But remember to keep it positive. Not only will it help your student improve, but it also lets them know that they’re doing well. And make it clear that you’re only trying to help them think of different ways to solve the problem. 

Brain Exercises Every Student Should Practice to Develop their Problem-Solving Skills

how to develop problem solving skills in students - light bulb in front of a chalk board

Keeping their minds active is essential regardless of the student’s educational level. After all, problem-solving requires a lot of thinking! 

Here are the best brain exercises every student should know to help them become natural problem-solvers in no time: 

🧩 Students Should Build their Vocabulary 

Tackling quick vocabulary lessons is an excellent brain game every student should know. Studies have shown that participating in vocabulary tasks stimulates more brain regions. Specifically, they target areas crucial for visual and auditory processing. And these are both essential in observation, which is critical in problem-solving.

Here are some cognitive-boosting activities to try: 

  • Always have a notepad near whenever reading. And write unfamiliar words down and discover the definition of each one. Finally, don’t forget to write the meaning alongside the terms! 
  • Use newly discovered words at least five times daily. 

🧩 Learn New Skills

Not only is delving into a new skill fun and exciting, but it can also stimulate your brain! Learning new skills strengthens your brain’s connections, improving your memory function. So, if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it today! Whether learning to play the piano or repair a car, these are excellent brain-boosting activities. 

No matter the activity, it should help strengthen your way of thinking. And this, in turn, can help students develop their problem-solving skills! You can learn skills to your accord at home or join extracurricular activities after school. 

🧩 Teach Skills You Know to Someone Else

A fun way to stimulate your brain is by teaching skills you already know to someone else. Whether to a friend, family member, or classmate, this is a compelling way to keep your mind active. As a result, you’ll be able to explain concepts and correct mistakes you or the other person make. And as you can see, it can benefit you greatly in problem-solving!

🧩 Tackle a New Route

Developing problem-solving skills as a student can make you get feel stuck! And being in a rut is something no student would want. After all, it makes you unmotivated and feels monotonous. So, keep things exciting and your mind active by tackling a new route! Explore beyond your comfort zone and discover new ways to do the same things you do daily to keep things fun and stimulating.

Pick a different route to get to school weekly or alternate your mode of transport. For instance, you can use your bike from Mondays to Wednesdays and take public transport during the rest of the school week. As straightforward as it sounds, tackling new routes is a drastic change for your brain! 

🧩 Regularly Meditate

Everyday meditation can help students fine-tune their memory. And most importantly, the relaxing activity can help a student’s brain’s capability to process information. So, find a quiet place at home and dedicate at least 5 to 10 minutes for your daily meditation. 

🧩 Listen to Music or Play it

One of the easiest ways to improve your creativity, which is crucial in problem-solving, is embracing music. Regardless if you listen to or play music, it’s an excellent way to come up with more innovative solutions than being in silence. Blasting or playing your favorite songs can improve your creative thinking and overall brain power over time. 

Best of all, you’re never too old or young to embrace music, whether listening to it or playing it!

🧩 Study a New Language

Studying a new language isn’t only a handy skill that can help students in the future, but it can also improve their problem-solving skills. No matter the language, learning a new one can help students improve their memory, visual-spatial skills, and creativity! Aside from that, being fluent in another language besides their mother tongue can help students switch between tasks easier. And this, in turn, also slows down natural age-related mental decline.

So, whether it’s Japanese or Spanish, learn a new language today. With this, not only will you be able to expand your vocabulary, but you’ll also be honing your problem-solving skills. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do students need to hone their problem-solving skills?

A: Besides helping them to create viable solutions to issues they face, having problem-solving skills also help students become more confident. The newly-found learning trait will help students learn to look at problems from a fresher perspective. As a result, students will adapt to taking more calculated risks. And this eventually helps them develop better situational and social awareness. 

Q: How to develop problem-solving skills in students as a teacher?

A: Teachers can help their students develop better problem-solving skills by presenting them with hypothetical situations and asking how they’d respond to them. It’ll help you see how your students apply their problem-solving skills to various tests and exercises. And from there, you should be able to determine the best way to help your student become an independent problem solver.

Q: What do problem-solving activities for students include?

A: Problem-solving activities involve exercises that help build a student’s capability to solve issues and overcome challenges. Although finding the best solutions to each complex problem is challenging, it is possible! Students should follow a step-by-step process of resolving different issues to help them see which solutions work best and which don’t. 

Q: What’s the best problem-solving technique for students?

A: Conducting brainstorming sessions with classmates, friends, or family is an excellent way to solve an issue as a student. This problem-solving method helps you create as many ideas as possible. And eventually, you’ll find the best way to resolve the problem at hand!

Q: What should students remember when solving problems?

A: Students must remember to be observant whenever trying to solve a problem. Combined with lateral thinking and critical analysis, these should help any student identify the issue better and discover the best solutions possible. I also recommend students determine the underlying cause of the problem. This way, finding the answer should be easier and quicker!

Final Words

How to develop problem solving skills in students? Students who can resolve any issue are valued more in school and their future professional lives. Molding these young minds’ thinking abilities makes them stand out and thrive. And the listed tips should be able to help you become an independent problem solver in no time. So, get your brain working, think, and discover the best solutions!

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