Optimising Problem Solving (OPS): a re-engineered version of the RSD

Tutors of a First Year Mechanical Engineering Communications course at the University of Adelaide have ‘re-engineered’ the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework with language and configuration that fits the ways that engineers work, think and speak.

The tutors are themselves students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Years and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

Their framework is called Optimising Problem Solving, or OPS for short. It has several brilliant features, which the RSD current representation does not have:

1. Simple
2. Visually captures core elements of Problem Solving Processes
3. Great for direct use with students in the classroom
4. Shows how communication is an integral part of the problem solving process, not just end-on in products like reports.

You can see the full sized downloadable OPS (version 2) at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/rsd/framework/frameworks/


The tutors are looking forward to using this with First Year students in the week beginning 4 August 2014. Some of them will probably write some guest blogs on Reskidev in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, have a look at OPS and maybe comment on:

1) How effectively does OPS capture problem solving, from your perspective?
2) Under the OPS title is a byline beginning ‘when in doubt…’ that shows that the OPS process is not linear or even cyclic, but there is some direction that can be given to students. What do you think of the guidance provided by the byline?

The RSD website is www.rsd.edu.au

OPS also helps me to see how similar the skills underlying problem solving and researching really are. Great if you comment on OPS, so that the tutors get feedback on this work-in-progress

Author: johnwillison

Senior Leturer, Discipline of Higher Education, School of Education, University of Adelaide.

3 thoughts on “Optimising Problem Solving (OPS): a re-engineered version of the RSD”

  1. Hello John

    I am a tutor within the engineering faculty. I led a Small Group Experience last year, and have led small group problem solving for the last few years. I developed a similar road map to problem solving (however, I like this one!).

    In my experience students tend to default to ‘Generate and Evaluate’ when presented with a problem. For example, brainstorming solutions to a perceive problem without having taken time to thoroughly formulated the problem. To help with this I developed a 1-page ‘Problem Solving Road Map’ based on the classical method of Grammar-Logic-Rhetoric and De Bono’s Thinking Hats. I presented the ideas to students, however I felt the road-map needed more work.

    The OPS goes a long way towards representing the nature of problem solving, particularly with the instructive device in the byline. I found the linear structure I used in my road map did not reflect the reality of problem solving. I used De Bono’s red hat (emotions) as the instructive device in my road map i.e. students should reasses where they are in the road map when they feel frustrated, confused etc. In OPS, the simple instruction ‘when in doubt, return to the centre’ made more sense for me upon first reading it.

    When developing my road map, I similarly found, to my amazement, that many disciplines use a similar approach to problem-solving be it law (Identify Facts – Discover Legal Issue – Apply Law – Communicate argument), engineering (Problem formulation – Develop Model – Test/Analyse – Construction), medicine (Observe symptoms – Diagnose – Develop prognosis – Apply Treatment) , philosophy, military etc. When I presented the ideas in the road map to students and they seemed to understand the concepts and the need for a road map. I noticed they started to pay more attention when I mentioned the similar approaches in various disciplines.

    Would you be able to put me in contact with the tutors? I’d like to use their road map in the small groups this year.


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