ASSOCIATES (vol. 5, no. 2, November 1998) -

Info From the Superhighway:

Decision Making and Problem Solving

Linda Putnam
Documents Department
Florida State University

As we all know, financing for libraries is slowly ebbing away, so that tasks which used to be preformed strictly by "professional" staff are being shared by a staff with a wide variety of library classifications. Librarians, administrators, and paraprofessionals are all being thrust into changing roles, and it will take time for everyone to become comfortable with the new changes.

These new roles are allowing paraprofessional staff to incorporate a wide variety of skills into their daily routines. Administrators are then able to recognize the wide range of abilities that many paraprofessionals posses. Many paraprofessionals, whose talents were overlooked before, are now becoming involved in committee work, problem solving, brain storming, decision making, team leading, and many of the detailed responsibilities of keeping a library up and running.

This means that paraprofessionals have more to live up to. The greater the responsibility assigned to the individual, the greater the expectations. These greater expectations can lead to greater stress, but not if we prepare ourselves for the coming tasks. The more an integral a part of the library system a paraprofessional becomes, the more "professional" he/she needs to become. This includes all of the new activities, whether the person is asked to serve on a committee or to help draft procedures for a policy which will soon be implemented. All activities should be based upon careful deliberation and thoughtful preparation.

One way that we can prepare for these new responsibilities is to learn how to make decisions and solve problems in a professional manner. We are not talking about someone who reads a report or hears one side of something and makes a decision; we are talking about someone who studies issues from all points and makes an informed decision. I have deliberately used the terms "problem solving" and "decision making" interchangeably in this article because even though they have different definitions, the terms are interrelated for the purposes stated in this article.

For those who have trouble with decision making or those who have never had to be involved in a group session, the list below contains references to websites which explain the process of decision making and will help you develop your skills. Decision making and problem solving are not easy skills to learn, but if you work at these skills, and work on the techniques described in the various websites listed below, you will acquire a skill that will be invaluable to you in all aspects of your life. Just think, you can go home and amaze your family with how you are changing and growing. Good luck and may you learn what you need to grow in your job.

Virtual Learning Center strategies in the art of problem solving. Also gives samples of problem solving lesson plans.
Problem-Based Learning strategies from the University of Delaware. Includes a list of papers related to Problem-Based Learning (PBL). PBL helps students develop the ability to think critically, analyze problems, and find and use appropriate learning resources... Pages/PBL_Directory.html
Problem-Based Learning Directory - Learn about problem solving, take a test or two. How to get the most out of problem based learning. Problem-based learning helps youo discover what you need to know to address whatever problem you face.
Science, Writing, and Problem Solving Skills For university students. Articles, tips, tutorials, and links to related sites.
Computer and Information Services - Quality Council Implementation Team from Texas A&M University provides a check-list for effective problem solving in research.
Problem Solving Practical problems to solve, in math, science, computers, writing a research paper, decision making, or just for fun. This was developed by Karen North of the Computer Sciences Department. Solving.html
A list of links to problem solving activities, papers, and techniques. A good resource from the Library-In-The-Sky site.
The Problem Solving Process: This site gives a good illustration in diagram of the problem solving process. The Competent Problem Solver A Logical Problem Solving Strategy for university students with a physics example. It also teaches the skillful problem solver how to invent good solutions for new problem situations.
Creative Problem Solving ; This homepage comes to your from Malaysia. Includes information on modern approaches to problem solving. The site is useful for those skilled in problem solving and those who are just learning the skill.
Lessons and activities dealing with problem solving techniques. This site offers short simple cooperative strategies.
Effective Learning: study sills and problem solving skills using both the creative as well as the critical thinking skills.
Problem solving observation checklist and rating scale.
Teamwork module: problem solving - provides information about problem definition as well as several different models for problem-solving and decision-making.

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