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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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8.4 Developing a strategy

8.4.1 Plan your use of problem-solving skills and select methods

Exploring and planning an activity often results in different options, possibilities and ways forward. Some approaches will be more feasible or will interest you more than others. At this stage you need to think about how you will be using your problem-solving skills and how you will assess the overall quality of your work. To help you make these decisions, you may find tools such as concept maps or critical-path analysis helpful in representing the different parts of the problem-solving activity, visualising the relationship of the parts to each other, and suggesting the order in which they might best be tackled.

What methods, tools or techniques do you intend to use to achieve your goals? You may want to consider collaborative, visual, verbal, numerical, auditory or physical methods. You should be able to explain and justify the methods you choose and show that they are valid in the circumstances. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your problem-solving techniques?

Review the skills you will need to achieve your goals and the criteria you will use to check that you have achieved them. Opportunities and constraints to do with your level of personal expertise, availability of resources, access limitations, work patterns, health and safety issues, social, ethical and moral concerns may all influence your plans. Planning approaches include:

  • sequencing: preparing a timeline for your tasks, indicating how the tasks depend on each other; set up milestones and review points to help you monitor your progress;

  • contingencies: unexpected events can throw a project off-course. What obstacles might be thrown up? What might go wrong, and what actions could you take if they do?

  • resourcing: what do you need to help you complete your work? What roles will others be taking? What are your interim goals for each stage of the project?

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available and set yourself some deadlines. Remember that plans are guidelines against which you can check progress, but also that all plans are based on assumptions about the future. Keep your plans under review and be prepared to modify them if circumstances change or if your assumptions don't work out. Don't forget to record your decisions, plans and actions in your Skills File.

Time out

What problem-solving techniques do you plan to use and how will you use them? Go back to any plans you have made and check that they are still relevant, up to date and realistic. Include any sketches of concept maps or critical-path diagrams in your notes.

Activity: Developing your problem-solving skills strategy

For this activity you will need to print out the Skills Sheet, ‘Developing your strategy’: click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   to open it.

Outline a strategy for developing and improving your problem-solving skills by focusing on the following questions. In developing your problem-solving skills:

  • What do you hope to achieve?

  • What opportunities do you have for practising and improving and demonstrating your skills?

  • What resources, including help and advice from others, can you draw on?

  • How do you intend to achieve your goals and outcomes, and what timetable have you set yourself? Include dates of any relevant assignments you intend to submit.

Make brief notes:

  • justifying why you have chosen your intended outcomes;

  • indicating the constraints – or your own styles and preferences for learning – which may influence the way you learn and improve your skills.

Refer to the figure below for an example of a completed Skills Sheet for this stage of the key skills framework.

Figure 17
Example of a completed Skills Sheet for ‘Developing your problem-solving skills strategy’