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4 Steps of Problem Solving Used for Information Literacy

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George Polya’s Four-Step Problem Solving Model

I wanted to take something that educators in Ontario are already familiar with and apply them to information literacy. Something that really stood out was George Polya’s four-step Problem Solving model which appears in the Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8 Mathematics.

The Steps are:

Understand the Problem

  • reread and restate the problem
  • identify the information given and the information that needs to be determined

Make a Plan

  • relate the problem to similar problems solved in the past
  • consider possible strategies
  • select a strategy or a combination of strategies

Carry Out the Plan

  • execute the chosen strategy
  • do the necessary calculations
  • monitor success
  • revise or apply different strategies as necessary

Look Back at the Solution

  • check the reasonableness of the answer
  • review the method used: Did it make sense? Is there a better way to approach the problem?
  • consider extensions or variations

Information Literacy Four-Step Problem Solving Model

The steps for problem solving match the steps for researching web resources rather well. When students search the internet for information they need to ask critical questions and relections that help to access and evaluate the authenticity of the information. This type of learning can be built upon the problem solving model with a few tweaks, and be a useful tool for students to use forever.

Understand the Problem

  • what is the problem that needs to be solved through the internet search?
  • what are the key words that relate specifically to the problem?
  • what is the information that I need and what information is not necessary?

Make a Plan

  • where have you found similar information in the past, where might this information be located?
  • what are the possible tools that you can use to get this information?
  • what strategy or a combination of strategies will help you to filter the results?

Carry Out the Plan

Look Back at the Solution

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