Problem Solving


Problem Solving

In Scouting, we help boys learn how to cook a meal, how to use a map and compass to find their way, how to use basic first aid to treat minor injuries. Each of these is a life-long skill. "Learning by doing" has always been a key element in the design of Scouting. So, why not help Scouts learn a method for solving problems. Learning a skill takes practice, and it is best to start at the simplest level. 

Through stories involving ethical dilemmas, Scouts learn successful ways to resolve real problems. With experience, Scouts can learn how to apply this method to real problems in Scouting and in their own lives 

This problem-solving model describes a set of teachable skills. It is a process of thinking. Learning the use of the model should be conducted with a positive attitude and an open mind. Scouts can learn the skills by using these three elements of the process: 

EMPATHY. Putting yourself in the other person's place. 

INVENTION. Inventing as many solutions to a problem as you can. 

SELECTION. Deciding which solution is the best for most people. 

These problem-solving skills put Scouts in charge of the process. They learn how to weigh alternatives, find creative solutions, and avoid potential problems. While the process is introduced through the use of stories, with practice, it can be applied to real-life situations. With experience, you can learn a simple and thoughtful process that you can use in solving real problems you are faced with. 

The Leader's Role

Your goal as a leader is to introduce Scouts to the three elements listed above. To begin, you can use several of the stories in the Scoutmaster's Junior Leader Training Kit. More stories are found in the collection of stories by Tasha Baizerman, called RIGHT, WRONG, or WHAT? -- Problem-Solving for Scouts. You will find a few questions at the end of each of the stories. These questions will help you get the Scouts started with the thinking process. 

A Little Drama

To liven things up a bit, appeal to the Scouts' sense of drama. Try introducing the model at a campfire. Have the Scouts sit by patrols. Introduce the elements of problem-solving using the short comments about learning skills found at the top of this page. Introduce each of the three elements briefly, but rather than explain, ask the Scouts what they think the meaning of each element. They will probably surprise you with their understanding, and expressing these thoughts in their own words will provide a much clear understanding. 

Read one of the stories. Ask the boys to discuss the story as a patrol. Have them work through the three elements. Ask them to be prepared to present their "solution" to the problem by role-playing the discussion between the characters in the story. 

As you guide the Scouts through this process, there won't be any pointers to show them how. So, ask them to remember the following stepping stones: 

  They should identify problems and conflicts. There are no right or wrong problems. Every problem is worth discussing, even if it seems silly. Once the silliness is out of the way, the group can get down to business. 
  Find several perspectives. Ask the Scouts to put themselves into the story as different characters. How would they feel if they were the boy who didn't get to go on the canoe trip? How do they think the Scoutmaster felt? 
  Consider several alternative solutions. Brainstorm, and be flexible. The Scouts should try to find three ways to end each story. How could they avoid the problem in the first place? They should consider "what if" questions for "it depends" answers. 
  Choose a solution that helps the most people. There may not be an obvious answer. Sometimes the answer isn't one you would choose. Maybe. in some cases, nobody can win. Or maybe the boys win learn that sometimes it's O.K. not to be loyal. Maybe what's "right" isn't always what will accomplish the most good. 
  A Note to the Leader: Use the teachable moment. Apply this thinking whenever you can in your Scouting setting. After four or five stories, your boys should be able to generate their own problem-solving discussions. And they can begin to use their skills in real-life situations. 




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