10 Best Problem-Solving Therapy Worksheets & Activities
Cognitive science tells us that we regularly face not only well-defined problems but, importantly, many that are ill defined (Eysenck & Keane, 2015).
Sometimes, we find ourselves unable to overcome our daily problems or the inevitable (though hopefully infrequent) life traumas we face.
Problem-Solving Therapy aims to reduce the incidence and impact of mental health disorders and improve wellbeing by helping clients face life’s difficulties (Dobson, 2011).
This article introduces Problem-Solving Therapy and offers techniques, activities, and worksheets that mental health professionals can use with clients.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
What is problem-solving therapy, 14 steps for problem-solving therapy, 3 best interventions and techniques, 7 activities and worksheets for your session, fascinating books on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message.
Problem-Solving Therapy assumes that mental disorders arise in response to ineffective or maladaptive coping. By adopting a more realistic and optimistic view of coping, individuals can understand the role of emotions and develop actions to reduce distress and maintain mental wellbeing (Nezu & Nezu, 2009).
“Problem-solving therapy (PST) is a psychosocial intervention, generally considered to be under a cognitive-behavioral umbrella” (Nezu, Nezu, & D’Zurilla, 2013, p. ix). It aims to encourage the client to cope better with day-to-day problems and traumatic events and reduce their impact on mental and physical wellbeing.
Clinical research, counseling, and health psychology have shown PST to be highly effective in clients of all ages, ranging from children to the elderly, across multiple clinical settings, including schizophrenia, stress, and anxiety disorders (Dobson, 2011).
Can it help with depression?
PST appears particularly helpful in treating clients with depression. A recent analysis of 30 studies found that PST was an effective treatment with a similar degree of success as other successful therapies targeting depression (Cuijpers, Wit, Kleiboer, Karyotaki, & Ebert, 2020).
Other studies confirm the value of PST and its effectiveness at treating depression in multiple age groups and its capacity to combine with other therapies, including drug treatments (Dobson, 2011).
The major concepts
Effective coping varies depending on the situation, and treatment typically focuses on improving the environment and reducing emotional distress (Dobson, 2011).
PST is based on two overlapping models:
Social problem-solving model
This model focuses on solving the problem “as it occurs in the natural social environment,” combined with a general coping strategy and a method of self-control (Dobson, 2011, p. 198).
The model includes three central concepts:
- Social problem-solving
- The problem
- The solution
The model is a “self-directed cognitive-behavioral process by which an individual, couple, or group attempts to identify or discover effective solutions for specific problems encountered in everyday living” (Dobson, 2011, p. 199).
Relational problem-solving model
The theory of PST is underpinned by a relational problem-solving model, whereby stress is viewed in terms of the relationships between three factors:
- Stressful life events
- Emotional distress and wellbeing
- Problem-solving coping
Therefore, when a significant adverse life event occurs, it may require “sweeping readjustments in a person’s life” (Dobson, 2011, p. 202).
- Enhance positive problem orientation
- Decrease negative orientation
- Foster ability to apply rational problem-solving skills
- Reduce the tendency to avoid problem-solving
- Minimize the tendency to be careless and impulsive
D’Zurilla’s and Nezu’s model includes (modified from Dobson, 2011):
- Initial structuring Establish a positive therapeutic relationship that encourages optimism and explains the PST approach.
- Assessment Formally and informally assess areas of stress in the client’s life and their problem-solving strengths and weaknesses.
- Obstacles to effective problem-solving Explore typically human challenges to problem-solving, such as multitasking and the negative impact of stress. Introduce tools that can help, such as making lists, visualization, and breaking complex problems down.
- Problem orientation – fostering self-efficacy Introduce the importance of a positive problem orientation, adopting tools, such as visualization, to promote self-efficacy.
- Problem orientation – recognizing problems Help clients recognize issues as they occur and use problem checklists to ‘normalize’ the experience.
- Problem orientation – seeing problems as challenges Encourage clients to break free of harmful and restricted ways of thinking while learning how to argue from another point of view.
- Problem orientation – use and control emotions Help clients understand the role of emotions in problem-solving, including using feelings to inform the process and managing disruptive emotions (such as cognitive reframing and relaxation exercises).
- Problem orientation – stop and think Teach clients how to reduce impulsive and avoidance tendencies (visualizing a stop sign or traffic light).
- Problem definition and formulation Encourage an understanding of the nature of problems and set realistic goals and objectives.
- Generation of alternatives Work with clients to help them recognize the wide range of potential solutions to each problem (for example, brainstorming).
- Decision-making Encourage better decision-making through an improved understanding of the consequences of decisions and the value and likelihood of different outcomes.
- Solution implementation and verification Foster the client’s ability to carry out a solution plan, monitor its outcome, evaluate its effectiveness, and use self-reinforcement to increase the chance of success.
- Guided practice Encourage the application of problem-solving skills across multiple domains and future stressful problems.
- Rapid problem-solving Teach clients how to apply problem-solving questions and guidelines quickly in any given situation.
Success in PST depends on the effectiveness of its implementation; using the right approach is crucial (Dobson, 2011).
Problem-solving therapy – Baycrest
The following interventions and techniques are helpful when implementing more effective problem-solving approaches in client’s lives.
First, it is essential to consider if PST is the best approach for the client, based on the problems they present.
Is PPT appropriate?
It is vital to consider whether PST is appropriate for the client’s situation. Therapists new to the approach may require additional guidance (Nezu et al., 2013).
Therapists should consider the following questions before beginning PST with a client (modified from Nezu et al., 2013):
- Has PST proven effective in the past for the problem? For example, research has shown success with depression, generalized anxiety, back pain, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and supporting caregivers (Nezu et al., 2013).
- Is PST acceptable to the client?
- Is the individual experiencing a significant mental or physical health problem?
All affirmative answers suggest that PST would be a helpful technique to apply in this instance.
Five problem-solving steps
The following five steps are valuable when working with clients to help them cope with and manage their environment (modified from Dobson, 2011).
Ask the client to consider the following points (forming the acronym ADAPT) when confronted by a problem:
- Attitude Aim to adopt a positive, optimistic attitude to the problem and problem-solving process.
- Define Obtain all required facts and details of potential obstacles to define the problem.
- Alternatives Identify various alternative solutions and actions to overcome the obstacle and achieve the problem-solving goal.
- Predict Predict each alternative’s positive and negative outcomes and choose the one most likely to achieve the goal and maximize the benefits.
- Try out Once selected, try out the solution and monitor its effectiveness while engaging in self-reinforcement.
If the client is not satisfied with their solution, they can return to step ‘A’ and find a more appropriate solution.
When dealing with clients facing negative self-beliefs, it can be helpful for them to use positive self-statements.
Use the following (or add new) self-statements to replace harmful, negative thinking (modified from Dobson, 2011):
- I can solve this problem; I’ve tackled similar ones before.
- I can cope with this.
- I just need to take a breath and relax.
- Once I start, it will be easier.
- It’s okay to look out for myself.
- I can get help if needed.
- Other people feel the same way I do.
- I’ll take one piece of the problem at a time.
- I can keep my fears in check.
- I don’t need to please everyone.
5 Worksheets and workbooks
Problem-solving self-monitoring form.
Answering the questions in the Problem-Solving Self-Monitoring Form provides the therapist with necessary information regarding the client’s overall and specific problem-solving approaches and reactions (Dobson, 2011).
Ask the client to complete the following:
- Describe the problem you are facing.
- What is your goal?
- What have you tried so far to solve the problem?
- What was the outcome?
Reactions to Stress
It can be helpful for the client to recognize their own experiences of stress. Do they react angrily, withdraw, or give up (Dobson, 2011)?
The Reactions to Stress worksheet can be given to the client as homework to capture stressful events and their reactions. By recording how they felt, behaved, and thought, they can recognize repeating patterns.
What Are Your Unique Triggers?
Helping clients capture triggers for their stressful reactions can encourage emotional regulation.
When clients can identify triggers that may lead to a negative response, they can stop the experience or slow down their emotional reaction (Dobson, 2011).
The What Are Your Unique Triggers ? worksheet helps the client identify their triggers (e.g., conflict, relationships, physical environment, etc.).
Imagining an existing or potential problem and working through how to resolve it can be a powerful exercise for the client.
Use the Problem-Solving worksheet to state a problem and goal and consider the obstacles in the way. Then explore options for achieving the goal, along with their pros and cons, to assess the best action plan.
Getting the Facts
Clients can become better equipped to tackle problems and choose the right course of action by recognizing facts versus assumptions and gathering all the necessary information (Dobson, 2011).
Use the Getting the Facts worksheet to answer the following questions clearly and unambiguously:
- Who is involved?
- What did or did not happen, and how did it bother you?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- How did you respond?
2 Helpful Group Activities
While therapists can use the worksheets above in group situations, the following two interventions work particularly well with more than one person.
Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making
A group setting can provide an ideal opportunity to share a problem and identify potential solutions arising from multiple perspectives.
Use the Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making worksheet and ask the client to explain the situation or problem to the group and the obstacles in the way.
Once the approaches are captured and reviewed, the individual can share their decision-making process with the group if they want further feedback.
Visualization can be performed with individuals or in a group setting to help clients solve problems in multiple ways, including (Dobson, 2011):
- Clarifying the problem by looking at it from multiple perspectives
- Rehearsing a solution in the mind to improve and get more practice
- Visualizing a ‘safe place’ for relaxation, slowing down, and stress management
Guided imagery is particularly valuable for encouraging the group to take a ‘mental vacation’ and let go of stress.
Ask the group to begin with slow, deep breathing that fills the entire diaphragm. Then ask them to visualize a favorite scene (real or imagined) that makes them feel relaxed, perhaps beside a gently flowing river, a summer meadow, or at the beach.
The more the senses are engaged, the more real the experience. Ask the group to think about what they can hear, see, touch, smell, and even taste.
Encourage them to experience the situation as fully as possible, immersing themselves and enjoying their place of safety.
Such feelings of relaxation may be able to help clients fall asleep, relieve stress, and become more ready to solve problems.
We have included three of our favorite books on the subject of Problem-Solving Therapy below.
1. Problem-Solving Therapy: A Treatment Manual – Arthur Nezu, Christine Maguth Nezu, and Thomas D’Zurilla
This is an incredibly valuable book for anyone wishing to understand the principles and practice behind PST.
Written by the co-developers of PST, the manual provides powerful toolkits to overcome cognitive overload, emotional dysregulation, and the barriers to practical problem-solving.
Find the book on Amazon .
2. Emotion-Centered Problem-Solving Therapy: Treatment Guidelines – Arthur Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu
Another, more recent, book from the creators of PST, this text includes important advances in neuroscience underpinning the role of emotion in behavioral treatment.
Along with clinical examples, the book also includes crucial toolkits that form part of a stepped model for the application of PST.
3. Handbook of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies – Keith Dobson and David Dozois
This is the fourth edition of a hugely popular guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies and includes a valuable and insightful section on Problem-Solving Therapy.
This is an important book for students and more experienced therapists wishing to form a high-level and in-depth understanding of the tools and techniques available to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.
For even more tools to help strengthen your clients’ problem-solving skills, check out the following free worksheets from our blog.
- Case Formulation Worksheet This worksheet presents a four-step framework to help therapists and their clients come to a shared understanding of the client’s presenting problem.
- Understanding Your Default Problem-Solving Approach This worksheet poses a series of questions helping clients reflect on their typical cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to problems.
- Social Problem Solving: Step by Step This worksheet presents a streamlined template to help clients define a problem, generate possible courses of action, and evaluate the effectiveness of an implemented solution.
- 17 Positive Psychology Exercises If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners . Use them to help others flourish and thrive.
While we are born problem-solvers, facing an incredibly diverse set of challenges daily, we sometimes need support.
Problem-Solving Therapy aims to reduce stress and associated mental health disorders and improve wellbeing by improving our ability to cope. PST is valuable in diverse clinical settings, ranging from depression to schizophrenia, with research suggesting it as a highly effective treatment for teaching coping strategies and reducing emotional distress.
Many PST techniques are available to help improve clients’ positive outlook on obstacles while reducing avoidance of problem situations and the tendency to be careless and impulsive.
The PST model typically assesses the client’s strengths, weaknesses, and coping strategies when facing problems before encouraging a healthy experience of and relationship with problem-solving.
Why not use this article to explore the theory behind PST and try out some of our powerful tools and interventions with your clients to help them with their decision-making, coping, and problem-solving?
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free .
- Cuijpers, P., Wit, L., Kleiboer, A., Karyotaki, E., & Ebert, D. (2020). Problem-solving therapy for adult depression: An updated meta-analysis. European P sychiatry , 48 (1), 27–37.
- Dobson, K. S. (2011). Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies (3rd ed.). Guilford Press.
- Dobson, K. S., & Dozois, D. J. A. (2021). Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies (4th ed.). Guilford Press.
- Eysenck, M. W., & Keane, M. T. (2015). Cognitive psychology: A student’s handbook . Psychology Press.
- Nezu, A. M., & Nezu, C. M. (2009). Problem-solving therapy DVD . Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310852
- Nezu, A. M., & Nezu, C. M. (2018). Emotion-centered problem-solving therapy: Treatment guidelines. Springer.
- Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., & D’Zurilla, T. J. (2013). Problem-solving therapy: A treatment manual . Springer.
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Problem Solving is a helpful intervention whenever clients present with difficulties, dilemmas, and conundrums, or when they experience repetitive thought such as rumination or worry. Effective problem solving is an essential life skill and this Problem Solving worksheet is designed to guide adults through steps which will help them to generate solutions to ‘stuck’ situations in their lives. It follows the qualities of effective problem solving outlined by Nezu, Nezu & D’Zurilla (2013), namely: clearly defining a problem; generation of alternative solutions; deliberative decision making; and the implementation of the chosen solution.
The therapist’s stance during problem solving should be one of collaborative curiosity. It is not for the therapist to pass judgement or to impose their preferred solution. Instead is the clinician’s role to sit alongside clients and to help them examine the advantages and disadvantages of their options and, if the client is ‘stuck’ in rumination or worry, to help motivate them to take action to become unstuck – constructive rumination asks “How can I…?” questions instead of “Why…?” questions.
In their description of problem solving therapy Nezu, Nezu & D’Zurilla (2013) describe how it is helpful to elicit a positive orientation towards the problem which involves: being willing to appraise problems as challenges; remain optimistic that problems are solvable; remember that successful problem solving involves time and effort.
- What is the nature of the problem?
- What are my goals?
- What is getting the way of me reaching my goals?
- “Can you think of any ways that you could make this problem not be a problem any more?”
- “What’s keeping this problem as a problem? What could you do to target that part of the problem?”
- “If your friend was bothered by a problem like this what might be something that you recommend they try?”
- “What would be some of the worst ways of solving a problem like this? And the best?”
- “How would Batman solve a problem like this?”
- Consider short term and long-term implications of each strategy
- Implications may relate to: emotional well-being, choices & opportunities, relationships, self-growth
- The next step is to consider which of the available options is the best solution. If you do not feel positive about any solutions, the choice becomes “Which is the least-worst?”. Remember that “even not-making-a-choice is a form of choice”.
- The last step of problem solving is putting a plan into action. Rumination, worry, and being in the horns of a dilemma are ‘stuck’ states which require a behavioral ‘nudge’ to become unstuck. Once you have put your plan into action it is important to monitor the outcome and to evaluate whether the actual outcome was consistent with the anticipated outcome.
- Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression . New York: Guilford. Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., D’Zurilla, T. J. (2013). Problem-solving therapy: a treatment manual . New York: Springer.
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- Follow the questions in order, without skipping any.
- Keep your responses short.
- You may move between steps using the progress bar above.
- Select the question mark icon for tips or more information.
Saved Worksheets will load here
What is Local Storage?
Before you start problem-solving, we would like to ensure your mind and body are ready to work on your problem.
Take a moment to think about the problem you would like to solve.
- • What is the problem?
- • Who is involved?
- • Is it stressful?
- • How does it affect your life?
Are you having any negative thoughts or feelings?
- Do you sometimes think that you're a failure or that you are not good enough to solve the problem?
- Do you feel hopeless, sad, guilty or anxious?
Are you having signs of stress?
Your mind can't operate at it is best when you are stressed. It is important to find a relaxation exercise that works for you to reduce the symptoms of stress.
Remember to notice your thoughts, feelings and stress level during your entire problem-solving process. Use the Stop and Slow Down tools to cool your mind and body as needed.
Step 1: Define the problem and set realistic goals
Now that your mind and body are ready to work on your problems, we'll focus on the first Planful Problem-Solving step: Define the problem and set realistic goals.
Reminder: Defining the problem inaccurately may lead your problem-solving efforts away from your goal. If necessary, ask your family members or friends to help.
Briefly describe the problem.
Your problem should be:
- Based on facts, not assumptions
Set your problem-solving goal.
Your goals should:
- Aim to solve your problem
- Be realistic
- Not be too narrow to be achieved
Describe the major obstacles to achieving your goals at this time.
Your obstacles may be:
- Barriers blocking your way to goals
- Conflicts between you and others
- Opposing goals
- Lack of skills or resources
- The unknown or unfamiliar
- Emotional difficulties
Step 2: Generate alternative solutions
In this section, we'll focus on the second Planful Problem-Solving step: Generate alternative solutions.
Think of alternate ways to achieve your goal. Be creative. List at least 3 ideas.
Your solutions should be diverse and not too narrow. Remember to apply the three brainstorming principles:
- Quantity leads to quality
- Do not judge
- Think of 'variety'
Step 3: Select the Solution that Works for You
In this section, we'll focus on the third Planful Problem-Solving step: Select the Solution that Works for You.
Screen out the obviously ineffective solutions and select your top three possible solutions.
Next you will evaluate each of these solutions individually.
Evaluate the impact of your solutions by considering:
- • personal and social consequences
- • short-term and long-term consequences
Solution 1: What are the "pros" or positive consequences or the "cons" or negative consequences" to this solution?
Solution 2: what are the "pros" or positive consequences or the "cons" or negative consequences" to this solution, soltuion 3: what are the "pros" or positive consequences or the "cons" or negative consequences" to this solution.
Decide which solution(s) is the best by choosing the one with the best positive consequences and fewest negative consequences.
- Identify the best solution by weighing the pros and cons of all the potential solutions.
- You may combine the solutions
Write down your Action Plan.
Your action plan can be simple or comprehensive. However, sometimes more difficult problems require a more comprehensive action plan.
Step 4: Carry out the solution and determine whether it worked or not
Now you have carried out your action plan. You should be proud of yourself! In this section, you will complete the last Planful Problem-Solving step: Carry out the solution and determine whether it worked or not.
Did your plan work and are you happy with the outcome?
If your plan was not successful, ask the following questions:
- Did you define the problem correctly?
- Did you think of a variety of alternate solutions?
- Did you consider both the pros and cons of each solution?
- Did you carry out your action plan as best as you could?
Problem-Solving Worksheet Print Out
Briefly describe the problem:, set your problem-solving goal:, describe the major obstacles to achieving your goals at this time:, think of alternate ways to achieve your goal. be creative. list at least 3 ideas:, solution 1:, solution 2:, solution 3:, solution 1: what are the major "pros" or positive consequences of this solution what are the "cons" or negative consequences, solution 2: what are the major "pros" or positive consequences of this solution what are the "cons" or negative consequences, solution 3: what are the major "pros" or positive consequences of this solution what are the "cons" or negative consequences.
This Before You Begin section will help prepare you to start solving your problems. Effective problem-solving requires a calm mind and a cool body. Stress makes it more difficult to think clearly and creatively.
Negative feelings include fear, anger, embarrassment, guilt, and hopelessness. If these feelings are intense or overwhelming, they can interfere with our ability to think logically. Negative thoughts are ideas that focus on the bad things that have happened or may happen in the future without leaving room for constructive thinking about how things can improve.
SIGNS OF STRESS
This list contains some common signs of stress. Review the list and determine if you may be experiencing any signs of stress now. Save the list to continue to monitor your stress signs as needed.
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach problems
- Tense muscles
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep problems
- Shortness of breath
- No energy or feeling fatigued
- Loss of sex drive
- Unexplained hair loss
- Rapid heart beat
- Drinking too much
- Using drugs
- Eating more/less than usual
- Sleep problems/difficulty sleeping
- Increased tobacco use
- Increased caffeine use
- Nail biting, hair‐twistin
- Grinding your teeth
- “Overdoing” activities
- Acting “bossy”
- Laughing or crying inappropriately
- Yelling or shouting
- Picking fights
- Driving too fast
- Compulsive gambling
- Compulsive buying
- Avoiding friends and family
- Quick irritability with others
- Loss of interest in leisure and play
- Sadness or depressed mood
- Frequent uneasiness, restlessness
- Anger, resentment, hostility
- Feeling pressured or trapped
- Sudden shifts in mood
- Increased mood sensitivity
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Overreacting to unexpected situations
Problems with Thinking
- Trouble concentrating
- Misunderstanding others
- Trouble remembering things
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Self‐doubt or low self‐confidence
- Criticizing yourself
- Negative “self‐talk”
Define the Problem Tips
Determine if the problem is solvable.
Determining if the problem can realistically be changed is an important first question in defining the problem. Some situations cannot be changed, but we can find ways to better deal with them. For example, if someone sustained a disabling injury, he may not be able to change his medical condition, but he can find ways to handle it more optimistically and to make the most of his current abilities. Remember, you cannot control the weather, but if you see that rain is in the forecast, you can bring your umbrella or modify your outdoor plans.
Separate Facts from Assumptions
Separating facts from assumptions is a critical part of accurately describing your problem. Sometimes we make assumptions, especially when we are stressed. If we act on assumptions, we are likely to be unsuccessful in solving the problem.
Even if you know that it's important to separate facts from assumptions, it is not always easy to do. Often we don't know we are making assumptions. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to take some time to think about your problem, and seek out the facts. Look for evidence that supports your description of your problem. Try to make sure you are seeing the whole picture and have all the key information. And once again, it is helpful to ask a friend or colleague for help.
Seeking the Facts
Sometimes people try to solve a problem before they know all the facts. With any situation that is causing distress, however, it is important to seek out information that you might not have at your fingertips. For example, you probably would not impulsively buy a car if you didn't know how much gas mileage it gets, or how often this particular model breaks down. Likewise, it's not a good idea to try to solve a problem before you know most of the facts.
A simple guide to use when seeking facts is to think like a detective or newspaper reporter trying to "get the facts." Ask questions such as "who," "what," "when," "where," and "how." Remember to use clear language when describing these facts. If we don't, we can "blow things out of proportion" or be easily misunderstood. What is "clear" language? Asking trusted friends or colleagues is often a useful way to determine if we are being clear.
Set Realistic Goals
In setting goals, identify ones that are actually attainable. Although we will never discourage you from following your dreams, you are unlikely to be able to reach them unless they are reasonable, and this can lead to feelings of frustration, depression, and failure. If a goal seems too large to try to accomplish for now, follow the simplification principle, that is, break the problem down into smaller ones, while still keeping your "final destination" in mind.
In setting goals, remember that it is important to understand the difference between two types of goals. Problem-focused goals are those that involve changing the nature of a situation so that it is no longer a problem. Such goals are more appropriate where the situation can, in fact, be changed. Examples include saving more money, improving communications with a spouse, or losing weight. On the other hand, emotion-focused goals are those where a situation cannot be changed, or where your emotional reactions are too overwhelming. For example, fear that you may never be able to get a job that is satisfying, while understandable, is likely to cause more harm than good if unchecked. Holding onto resentment, anger, or jealousy are other examples. Therefore, when setting goals, you need to think about which types of goals are appropriate for the problem you are trying to deal with. Problem-focused goals usually require some action; emotion-focused goals often require acceptance, forgiveness, stress management, or other ways of minimizing your negative emotions from becoming overwhelming.
Identify the Obstacles
What makes your situation a problem for you? This is a key question to answer in order for you to correctly "define" your problem. Usually problems involve obstacles to overcome or conflicts to resolve; we may not have the sufficient resources or knowledge to reach a goal, or there may be too many goals to choose from. As with most of life's more difficult problems, there are usually multiple factors that exist that contribute to the problem. Identifying such factors helps us to eventually identify effective solutions.
Obstacles that make a situation a problem may include:
- Barriers: something blocking your path to a goal.
- Conflicting goals: conflicts between yourself and others, or between two opposing goals you have identified.
- Reduced resources : lack of necessary skills or resources that makes reaching your goal very difficult.
- The unknown or unfamiliar: a situation you haven’t encountered before that makes it difficult to know what to do.
- Complexity: the situation seems very complicated and overwhelming.
- Emotional difficulties: your emotional reaction itself is difficult to overcome.
When viewing yourself as a "problem-solving traveler," the question to specifically ask yourself is—"what is preventing me from getting from A (where I am now) to B (where I want to go)? Think about a problem you are currently experiencing—write down what you think are the obstacles, conflicting goals, complexities, lack of resources, emotional difficulties, or unknown/unfamiliar aspects that make your situation a problem. In other words, what kind of roadblocks, long tunnels, expensive tolls, winding roads, or dangerous hills do you need to take into account when "planning your trip" to get to your destination? In doing so, remember to use clear language and to separate facts from assumptions! These obstacles are what you need to overcome in order to solve the problem.
Generate Alternative Solutions
Quantity leads to quality.
This notion suggests that it is important to generate many solution options because having more solutions increases your chances of eventually identifying high-quality alternatives. Think of the simple example of looking to buy a new pair of pants—what type of store is more likely to have your size and preference, a large store or a small store? Obviously the large one! Having more of a selection allows you to choose the pants that fit you the best! In using the quantity principle, remember to use the externalizing rule of problem-solving multi-tasking; that is, when thinking of a list of ideas–write them down!
Do Not Judge
The second principle recommends that you defer judgment, suggesting that you record every idea that comes to mind in order to increase the number of ideas you can generate. Prematurely rejecting ideas limits creative thinking! Instead, deferring judgment increases your ability to think of effective ideas. For example, even if an idea seems silly or initially impossible, it may spark another related idea that is not silly or impossible. Therefore, you should refrain from evaluating or judging solutions at this time. There is only one criterion to use at present—that the idea be relevant to the problem at hand. Otherwise, remember that there is no "right" or "wrong" alternative at this point— if you catch yourself (even silently) judging any ideas you have, STOP and remind yourself that this will cut down on creativity.
Think of Variety
According to this third principle, the greater the variety of alternatives generated, the more high-quality ideas will be produced. Strategies are general courses of action you can take to handle a problem. Tactics are specific steps involved in putting a given strategy into action. To increase your creativity, look over a list of alternatives and try to identify the various strategies that you generated. For example, strategies to get more money can include: (a) borrow money, (b) steal money (we know this is not a good one, but remember to defer judgment! ), (c) get a second job, (d) cut down on expenses, and so forth. Specific tactics of borrowing money can include (a) borrow from a bank, (b) borrow from cousin John, (c) borrow from a loan shark, (d) borrow from a credit union, (d) borrow from your boss, and so forth. If any of the strategies have few specific tactics, try to generate more. Then try to think of some new strategies and then some new tactics for each new strategy.
Stimulate Your Creativity: Getting Unstuck
If you get “stuck” and cannot think of many alternatives, the following are additional ways to stimulate your creativity:
- Imagine how someone else may try to solve the problem. Think of someone you admire, such as your best friend, your favorite uncle, the Dali Lama, a sports hero, or your favorite character from a book or movie.
- Use the visualizing principle. Think of the problem in your imagination, and then visualize yourself attempting to cope with it and achieving your problem-solving goals. Think about differing ways to achieve such goals.
- Combine differing ideas. This can help to produce new solution alternatives or to modify an alternative to either improve upon it or produce a new one.
If generating multiple alternatives proves a bit difficult for you, one way to improve your basic creativity skills is to practice with "fun" examples. For instance, generate as many ideas as possible regarding what you can do with a "single brick." Believe it or not, within minutes, you can develop a list that can top over 100 ideas if you follow the brainstorming rules. For fun, go ahead and try this practice example. Write down as many ideas as you possibly can regarding different things you can do with a single brick. If you experience some creative blocks, remember the brainstorming principles.
Screen Out Ineffective Solutions
When predicting the consequences or effects of a given alternative, there are a series of questions you should ask.
First, you should try to answer the following two questions about the alternative's effectiveness:
- Will this solution help me reach my goals?
- Will I actually be able to carry it out?
A second set of questions involves predicting the personal, social, short-term, and long-term consequences of each alternative.
- What are the effects on me? (Personal consequences can include: emotional, psychological, and physical well-being; the time and effort required; financial well-being; impact on values.)
- What are the social consequences? (That is, what are the effects on others, such as family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc?)
- What are the immediate consequences of this alternative?
- What are the long-range effects of this solution?
Evaluating the Solutions and Alternatives
To identify the solution that is best for you, consider rating each alternative by weighing their pros and cons. (If the problem is simple, you may be able to skip this step.) To evaluate the alternatives, give each idea a rating based on your response to each of the following four questions. The ratings are: plus rating = positive or yes, or minus rating = negative or no. When you are done, each option will have 4 ratings.
- Will this alternative reach my goal?
- Can I carry it out?
- What are the overall effects on myself, both short-term and long-term?
- What are the overall effects on others, both short-term and long-term?
Deciding Which Solution is Best
Look over your ratings for your three solutions and select the best solution that works for you. Effective alternatives are those with the least number of "minuses" and the most number of "plusses." If there are several, you can begin to develop an Action Plan.
If most or all of your alternatives are rated as generally negative, consider whether you correctly defined the problem or generated enough alternatives.
Make and Action Plan
Choose those alternatives that have the best ratings to develop an action plan. This plan may be simple or comprehensive. If you initially identified very few obstacles to your goal, a simple plan requiring only one or two alternatives may be enough. However, sometimes more difficult problems need a more comprehensive action plan. For example, you may wish to choose a combination of several alternatives to be carried out at the same time. This would be appropriate when it seems that such a combination is likely to be more effective than any solution alone, or when there are multiple obstacles that need to be overcome. Many problems in life are complex and involve multiple obstacles to overcome, so identifying several solutions to include in a larger action plan may be advisable.
You may also need to think about contingency plans (that is, what to do in case a given alternative or set of options are not effective).
Once your action plan is prepared, the final step is to fill in the details as to exactly how, when, and where it will be carried out. At this point, write this plan down (Externalize) and/or imagine yourself carrying out the plan (Visualize) in order to consider one last time how good a plan you believe it to be.
Observe and Monitor the Outcome
Just like a doctor takes your blood pressure to determine how a particular medication is working, it is important for you to monitor the outcome of your action plan. Before you made the action plan, you were asked to predict the pros and cons of possible solutions. After you carry out your action plan, collect information to determine if your predictions were correct. Determine if your action plan helped you to reach your goals.
Reward your Efforts
Now is the time to reward yourself for your problem-solving efforts! Rewards could involve buying a new video game or DVD, a new article of clothing, watching your favorite movie, cooking your favorite meal or buying good seats at an upcoming sports event. Maybe your reward is sharing your progress with someone who cares about you or catching up with an old friend. You could also reward yourself by taking some much deserved "me" time to spend doing something you don't normally have time to do. This is to reward your efforts! As such, this does NOT mean that you should limit your self-reward only for successfully resolving the problem, but more so for just trying! Regardless of the results concerning any one problem, by trying to put your Planful Problem-Solving skills to work and monitoring the results, you will always be improving your skills. And that's worth rewarding
Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Negative thoughts and feelings will interfere with your ability to identify effective ways of dealing with problems. Below are some tips for helping you cope with them:
- Be aware of your negative thoughts and feelings.
- Seek evidence to challenge your negative thoughts.
- Accept your negative feelings, but don't let them take over.
- Focus on what you can change, not on things that are unchangeable.
Your mind can't operate at its best when you are experiencing stress. To reduce the symptoms of stress, do any relaxation exercise that works for you.
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Count slowly from 1-10
Select this link to review the relaxtion exercises. When you feel less stressed, close this dialog box.
Lean Events and Training / Forms and Templates
Forms and Templates
Downloads for A3 problem solving, standard work , project management, and value stream mapping .
Problem Solving Templates
A3 Action Plan Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- The action plan template helps define the who, what, when, where, and how of a plan on one page.
- Helps track progress and highlight problems so action can be taken.
A3 Status Review Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- Top box provides an overview with respect to our critical end-of-pipe metrics.
- Second box provides an overview of activities, and usually reflects what’s been prescribed on the action plan of the right side of the strategy A3.
A3 Strategy Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- A strategy A3 is a one-page storyboard on 11-inch by 17-inch paper that helps tell the strategy “story.”
- Logic flows from top left to bottom right, and each box leads to the next one.
Detailed A3 Template (from Managing to Learn)
- Print this A3 template out to remind you of each section of the problem-solving A3 as you are creating your own.
PDSA A3 Template (from On the Mend)
- A3 Template, in Excel, following the PDSA cycle.
Problem Definition Worksheet
- This worksheet can help you breakdown the problem into a clearly defined gap as well as see how the problem aligns to the needs of the business or your True North purpose.
Root Cause Template
- This template gives you space to record the problem as well as the direct causes and underlying causes.
Four Types of Problems
Managing to Learn: Using the A3 management process
Perfecting Patient Journeys
Beau Keyte , Tom Shuker and Judy Worth
Getting the Right Things Done
Standard Work Templates
Standard Work Operator Balance Chart (OBC)
- The operator balance chart helps create continuous flow in a multi-step, multi-operator process by distributing operator work elements in relation to takt time.
Standard Work Process Study Sheet
- The Process Study Sheet is used to define and record the time for work elements in a process.
Standard Work Production Analysis Board
- A Production Analysis Board is a display that must be located at the exit of the cell (or the line) to show actual performance compared with planned performance on an hourly basis.
Standard Work Skills Training Matrix
- The Skills Training Matrix shows the required and attained skills of every operator.
- The training schedule also should be shown.
Standardized Work Chart
- The standardized work chart shows operator movement and material location in relation to the machine and overall process layout.
- It should show takt time, work sequence, and standard WIP.
Standardized Work Combination Table
- The standardized work combination table shows the combination of manual work time, walk time, and machine processing time for each operation in a production sequence.
- This form is a more precise process design tool than the Operator Balance Chart.
- It can be very helpful to identify the waste of waiting and overburden, and to confirm standard.
Standardized Work Job Instruction Sheet
- The job instruction sheet is used to train new operations.
- It lists the steps of the job, detailing any special knack that may be required to perform the job safely with utmost quality and efficiency.
- It can also be useful for experienced operators to reconfirm the right operations.
Standardized Work Process Capacity Sheet
- The Process Capacity Chart is used to calculate the capacity of each machine to confirm true capacity and to identify and eliminate bottlenecks.
- Processing capacity per shift will be calculated from the available production time, completion time, and tool-change time (and other factors as necessary) for each work piece.
Waste Walk Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Taking a “waste walk” is one way to make the waste visible again.
- A waste walk is simply a planned visit to where work is being performed to observe what’s happening and to note the waste. It differs from go-see activities in that you are specifically looking for waste.
Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
Lean Lexicon 5th Edition
Lean Enterprise Institute
Training Within Industry (TWI) Templates and Downloads
8-step TWI problem solving card - as presented by IBM
- 8-steps to problem solving handy pocket card printable.
Solving Problems with TWI
- Solving problems with TWI deployment graphic.
Template of Job Breakdown Sheet
- Job breakdown sheets are created to list the steps and highlight the main factors or key points that go into completing a job.
- It also provides reasons for these key points.
TWI Job Instruction Card
- TWI Job Instruction card in a handy pocket printable.
TWI Job Methods Card
- TWI Job Methods Card in a handy pocket printable.
TWI Job Relations Card
- TWI Job Relations Card in a handy pocket printable.
James (Jim) Womack, PhD and Dan Jones
Lean Thinking, 2nd Edition
Project Management Templates
Master Schedule and Action Plan Template for One Goal (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Use this template in your project tracking center so you can track both goals and action items on the same form.
End of Project Review Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- The following template will help you capture your end-of-project reflections and make decisions about what to do next.
Master Schedule Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- This template will help you answer this question by letting you include the project goals with space to indicate whether each goal is on track as originally planned and whether the scheduled progress review has taken place.
Team Board Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- A team board is a window on both routine and improvement work.
- The board on this template addresses both daily production and strategic issues, and is organized according to SQDCM—safety, quality, delivery, cost, and morale.
Value Proposition Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Align the stakeholders around what will be included in addressing the problem,
- Identify the stakeholders who will be added to the project team and actively engaged in creating the current- and future-state value-stream maps,
- Identify additional stakeholders necessary to drive the implementation of the future state,
- Serve as an agreement—a proof of consensus—on the specific problem to be solved, and with the problem statement serve as authorization for the entire project.
Action Planning Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Identify the specific changes that need to be made and translate those changes into clearly stated goals and actions (i.e., the means) to achieve those goals.
- Identify the specific methods and action steps you think will help you achieve the goals. These action steps and targets constitute the action plan to achieve a specific goal.
Value-Stream Mapping Templates
Value-stream Mapping Icons for Excel
- At the request of some of our readers we have posted the most commonly used mapping icons so that they can be downloaded for Excel spreadsheets.
Learning to See
Mike Rother and John Shook
VSM Getting Started Set
Lean Enterprise Institute , Mike Rother and John Shook
Mapping to See: Value-Stream Improvement Workshop
Beau Keyte , Jim Luckman , Kirk Paluska , Guy Parsons , John Shook , Tom Shuker and David Verble
Improvement Kata / Coaching Kata
Improvement Kata Learner's Storyboard
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Team Building Exercises – Problem Solving and Decision Making
Fun ways to turn problems into opportunities.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Whether there's a complex project looming or your team members just want to get better at dealing with day-to-day issues, your people can achieve much more when they solve problems and make decisions together.
By developing their problem-solving skills, you can improve their ability to get to the bottom of complex situations. And by refining their decision-making skills, you can help them work together maturely, use different thinking styles, and commit collectively to decisions.
In this article, we'll look at three team-building exercises that you can use to improve problem solving and decision making in a new or established team.
Exercises to Build Decision-Making and Problem-Solving Skills
Use the following exercises to help your team members solve problems and make decisions together more effectively.
Exercise 1: Lost at Sea*
In this activity, participants must pretend that they've been shipwrecked and are stranded in a lifeboat. Each team has a box of matches, and a number of items that they've salvaged from the sinking ship. Members must agree which items are most important for their survival.
Download and print our team-building exercises worksheet to help you with this exercise.
This activity builds problem-solving skills as team members analyze information, negotiate and cooperate with one another. It also encourages them to listen and to think about the way they make decisions.
What You'll Need
- Up to five people in each group.
- A large, private room.
- A "lost at sea" ranking chart for each team member. This should comprise six columns. The first simply lists each item (see below). The second is empty so that each team member can rank the items. The third is for group rankings. The fourth is for the "correct" rankings, which are revealed at the end of the exercise. And the fifth and sixth are for the team to enter the difference between their individual and correct score, and the team and correct rankings, respectively.
- The items to be ranked are: a mosquito net, a can of petrol, a water container, a shaving mirror, a sextant, emergency rations, a sea chart, a floating seat or cushion, a rope, some chocolate bars, a waterproof sheet, a fishing rod, shark repellent, a bottle of rum, and a VHF radio. These can be listed in the ranking chart or displayed on a whiteboard, or both.
- The experience can be made more fun by having some lost-at-sea props in the room.
Flexible, but normally between 25 and 40 minutes.
- Divide participants into their teams, and provide everyone with a ranking sheet.
- Ask team members to take 10 minutes on their own to rank the items in order of importance. They should do this in the second column of their sheet.
- Give the teams a further 10 minutes to confer and decide on their group rankings. Once agreed, they should list them in the third column of their sheets.
- Ask each group to compare their individual rankings with their collective ones, and consider why any scores differ. Did anyone change their mind about their own rankings during the team discussions? How much were people influenced by the group conversation?
- Now read out the "correct" order, collated by the experts at the US Coast Guard (from most to least important): - Shaving mirror. (One of your most powerful tools, because you can use it to signal your location by reflecting the sun.) - Can of petrol. (Again, potentially vital for signaling as petrol floats on water and can be lit by your matches.) - Water container. (Essential for collecting water to restore your lost fluids.) -Emergency rations. (Valuable for basic food intake.) - Plastic sheet. (Could be used for shelter, or to collect rainwater.) -Chocolate bars. (A handy food supply.) - Fishing rod. (Potentially useful, but there is no guarantee that you're able to catch fish. Could also feasibly double as a tent pole.) - Rope. (Handy for tying equipment together, but not necessarily vital for survival.) - Floating seat or cushion. (Useful as a life preserver.) - Shark repellent. (Potentially important when in the water.) - Bottle of rum. (Could be useful as an antiseptic for treating injuries, but will only dehydrate you if you drink it.) - Radio. (Chances are that you're out of range of any signal, anyway.) - Sea chart. (Worthless without navigational equipment.) - Mosquito net. (Assuming that you've been shipwrecked in the Atlantic, where there are no mosquitoes, this is pretty much useless.) - Sextant. (Impractical without relevant tables or a chronometer.)
Advice for the Facilitator
The ideal scenario is for teams to arrive at a consensus decision where everyone's opinion is heard. However, that doesn't always happen naturally: assertive people tend to get the most attention. Less forthright team members can often feel intimidated and don't always speak up, particularly when their ideas are different from the popular view. Where discussions are one-sided, draw quieter people in so that everyone is involved, but explain why you're doing this, so that people learn from it.
You can use the Stepladder Technique when team discussion is unbalanced. Here, ask each team member to think about the problem individually and, one at a time, introduce new ideas to an appointed group leader – without knowing what ideas have already been discussed. After the first two people present their ideas, they discuss them together. Then the leader adds a third person, who presents his or her ideas before hearing the previous input. This cycle of presentation and discussion continues until the whole team has had a chance to voice their opinions.
After everyone has finished the exercise, invite your teams to evaluate the process to draw out their experiences. For example, ask them what the main differences between individual, team and official rankings were, and why. This will provoke discussion about how teams arrive at decisions, which will make people think about the skills they must use in future team scenarios, such as listening , negotiating and decision-making skills, as well as creativity skills for thinking "outside the box."
A common issue that arises in team decision making is groupthink . This can happen when a group places a desire for mutual harmony above a desire to reach the right decision, which prevents people from fully exploring alternative solutions.
If there are frequent unanimous decisions in any of your exercises, groupthink may be an issue. Suggest that teams investigate new ways to encourage members to discuss their views, or to share them anonymously.
Exercise 2: The Great Egg Drop*
In this classic (though sometimes messy!) game, teams must work together to build a container to protect an egg, which is dropped from a height. Before the egg drop, groups must deliver presentations on their solutions, how they arrived at them, and why they believe they will succeed.
This fun game develops problem-solving and decision-making skills. Team members have to choose the best course of action through negotiation and creative thinking.
- Ideally at least six people in each team.
- Raw eggs – one for each group, plus some reserves in case of accidents!
- Materials for creating the packaging, such as cardboard, tape, elastic bands, plastic bottles, plastic bags, straws, and scissors.
- Aprons to protect clothes, paper towels for cleaning up, and paper table cloths, if necessary.
- Somewhere – ideally outside – that you can drop the eggs from. (If there is nowhere appropriate, you could use a step ladder or equivalent.)
- Around 15 to 30 minutes to create the packages.
- Approximately 15 minutes to prepare a one-minute presentation.
- Enough time for the presentations and feedback (this will depend on the number of teams).
- Time to demonstrate the egg "flight."
- Put people into teams, and ask each to build a package that can protect an egg dropped from a specified height (say, two-and-a-half meters) with the provided materials.
- Each team must agree on a nominated speaker, or speakers, for their presentation.
- Once all teams have presented, they must drop their eggs, assess whether the eggs have survived intact, and discuss what they have learned.
When teams are making their decisions, the more good options they consider, the more effective their final decision is likely to be. Encourage your groups to look at the situation from different angles, so that they make the best decision possible. If people are struggling, get them to brainstorm – this is probably the most popular method of generating ideas within a team.
Ask the teams to explore how they arrived at their decisions, to get them thinking about how to improve this process in the future. You can ask them questions such as:
- Did the groups take a vote, or were members swayed by one dominant individual?
- How did the teams decide to divide up responsibilities? Was it based on people's expertise or experience?
- Did everyone do the job they volunteered for?
- Was there a person who assumed the role of "leader"?
- How did team members create and deliver the presentation, and was this an individual or group effort?
Exercise 3: Create Your Own*
In this exercise, teams must create their own, brand new, problem-solving activity.
This game encourages participants to think about the problem-solving process. It builds skills such as creativity, negotiation and decision making, as well as communication and time management. After the activity, teams should be better equipped to work together, and to think on their feet.
- Ideally four or five people in each team.
- Paper, pens and flip charts.
Around one hour.
- As the participants arrive, you announce that, rather than spending an hour on a problem-solving team-building activity, they must design an original one of their own.
- Divide participants into teams and tell them that they have to create a new problem-solving team-building activity that will work well in their organization. The activity must not be one that they have already participated in or heard of.
- After an hour, each team must present their new activity to everyone else, and outline its key benefits.
There are four basic steps in problem solving : defining the problem, generating solutions, evaluating and selecting solutions, and implementing solutions. Help your team to think creatively at each stage by getting them to consider a wide range of options. If ideas run dry, introduce an alternative brainstorming technique, such as brainwriting . This allows your people to develop one others' ideas, while everyone has an equal chance to contribute.
After the presentations, encourage teams to discuss the different decision-making processes they followed. You might ask them how they communicated and managed their time . Another question could be about how they kept their discussion focused. And to round up, you might ask them whether they would have changed their approach after hearing the other teams' presentations.
Successful decision making and problem solving are at the heart of all effective teams. While teams are ultimately led by their managers, the most effective ones foster these skills at all levels.
The exercises in this article show how you can encourage teams to develop their creative thinking, leadership , and communication skills , while building group cooperation and consensus.
* Original source unknown. Please let us know if you know the original source.
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1st Year Enrollment Worksheet
This worksheet is a planning tool and enrollment guide for use when you enroll for your first semester.
How to Use this Worksheet:
- Review the recommended courses for your major and Madison Foundations GenEd requirements for your first semester. Build your schedule around recommended courses first.
- There may be courses that are required for your major, but are optional for the first semester that appear in a green section. If you do not enroll in the optional courses your first semester, you will do so in a later semester.
- Use the GenEd Planner to identify additional courses to add to your schedule to create a full schedule.
Save and/or print this worksheet to use as a guide when you enroll in classes. When printing this worksheet, only selected courses will display.
Middle School Education - Mathematics -BS
- Enroll in MATH 110.
- Enroll in WRTC 103 if you do not have credit through AP, IB, CIE, or dual enrollment.
- Enroll in a Madison Foundations Human Communications OR Critical Thinking course.
- Enroll in PSYC 160 OR EDUC 200.
- From the General Education options, enroll in additional courses to create a full schedule of 14 - 17 credit hours.
Your placement exam scores identify the appropriate course level based on your current skills. Video Tutorial: Locating your JMU scores
ALEKS Math Assessment Score: You need to know your math assessment score to determine your math placement for the 1st-semester or a future semester. After completion of the math assessment, enter your score in the field below so you have this information available if you are required to take a math course your 1st-semester. If a math course is required in the 1st-semester, it will be identified in the major recommendations section below. If math is not listed, you will take math in a future semester. The MyMadison system will not allow you to enroll in a course other than your placement recommendation.
My ALEKS Score:
Foreign Language Placement Score: You also need to know your JMUFL foreign language placement score to determine the appropriate placement level. The MyMadison system will not allow you to enroll in a course other than your placement recommendation.
My JMUFL Score:
Major Recommendations for the 1st Semester
Madison Foundations Writing Requirement. If you do not have credit for writing, enroll in WRTC 103.
- WRTC 103 : Rhetorial Reading & Writing - Fulfills Major & GenEd requirement
Enroll in either PSYC 160 OR EDUC 200. (3 credit hours each)
- PSYC 160 : Life Span Human Development - Fulfills Major & GenEd Requirement Do not enroll if you have dual enrollment credit for a human development course that spans the life cycle from birth through death. Note: A human development course that spans from birth through adolescence will not count as credit for this course. Also, an introduction to psychology course will not count as credit for this course.
- EDUC 200 : Foundations of Education in the United States - Fulfills Major Requirement
1st Semester Math Requirement: Enroll in Math 110.
- MATH 110 : Mathematics for Elementary and Middle School Teachers I (4 credit hours) - Fulfills Major & GenEd Requirement
1st Semester Madison Foundations Requirement:
Select ONE course from EITHER the Critical Thinking section OR the Human Communications section for your 1st-semester. You will take a course from the other area in your second semester. The MyMadison system will not allow you to enroll in both a Human Communications and a Critical Thinking course in the 1st-semester.
Critical Thinking: (select one)
Students should take Critical Thinking in a discipline different from their major to experience alternative ways of analyzing evidence, making arguments, and solving problems. Critical Thinking courses are not introductions to the major: for example, BUS 160 is not a Business major class. It is for majors in other fields such as History and Music.
- BUS 160 : Business Decision-Making in a Modern Society
- EDUC 102E : Critical Questions in Education
- HIST 150 : Critical Issues in Recent Global History
- ISAT 160 : Problem-Solving Approaches in Science and Technology
- PHIL 120 : Critical Thinking
- PHIL 150 : Ethical Reasoning
- SMAD 150 : Mediated Communication: Issues and Skills
Human Communications: (select one)
- SCOM 121 : Human Communication - Presentations
- SCOM 122 : Human Communication - Individual Presentations
- SCOM 123 : Human Communication - Group Presentations
Optional 1st Semester Courses:
Below are optional courses for the 1st-semester. If these courses are not available and/or you do not meet the requirements, you will take these classes in a future semester.
Orientation to the Profession: Consider enrolling in MSSE 101.
- MSSE 101 : Orientation to the Profession (1 credit hour) - Optional Course
General Education Courses
Complete the schedule planning process by using the General Education Planner below to identify courses to add to your schedule to create a full schedule of 14 - 17 credit hours. The number of GenEd courses you need to add from the list below is major dependent. Based on the required courses above, some majors will only need to add one GenEd course from the list below while others may need to add three GenEd courses to create a full schedule.
- Madison Foundations - Writing: If you do not have AP, IB, CIE or dual enrollment credit for WRTC 103, we encourage you enroll your 1st-semester. If a WRTC 103 course is not available, you will enroll in the following semester.
- The Natural World: Math courses are restricted to students in majors that require a math class in the 1st-semester. If your major requires math in the 1st-semester, it will be indicated above in the major recomendations area of this worksheet. If a math course is not identified above, your advisor will discuss your math placement score and math recommendation for your major when you meet during Orientation.
- American & Global Perspectives: This is an area where many students have earned credit through AP, IB, CIE or dual enrollment courses taken in high school. If you are waiting on test or grade results, we recommend you enroll in a GenEd course from a different area until you receive your results.
- Sociocultural & Wellness Area: If you are waiting on test or grade results through AP, IB, CIE or dual enrollment courses taken in high school, we recommend you enroll in a GenEd course from a different area until you receive your results.
Modified GenEd Planner for 1st-Semester Use
Select ONE course from EITHER the Critical Thinking section OR the Human Communications section for your 1st-semester.
Critical Thinking See the required section of this worksheet.
Human Communication See the required section of this worksheet.
Writing (3 credit hours) This area is fulfilled by a major requirement (WRTC 103 OR AP/IB/CIE/DE credit).
Sociocultural & Wellness Area
Wellness Domain (3 credit hours) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available.
- HTH 100 : Personal Wellness 15-hour physical activity requirement of your choice for the semester.
- KIN 100 : Lifetime Fitness and Wellness Lecture and a specific physical activity per course section. Read the TOPIC section of the class when enrolling to identify the fitness activity. Swim conditioning assumes students can already swim.
Sociocultural Domain (3 credit hours) This area is fulfilled by a major requirement (PSYC 160).
Arts and Humanities
Human Questions and Contexts (3 credit hours) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available.
- AMST 200 : Introduction to American Studies
- ANTH 205 : Buried Cities and Lost Tribes
- HIST 101 : World History to 1500
- HIST 102 : World History since 1500
- HUM 250 : Foundations of Western Culture
- HUM 251 : Modern Perspectives
- HUM 252 : Global Cultures
- LAXC 252 : Intro to Latin American, Latinx and Carribean Studies
- PHIL 101 : Intro to Philosophy
- REL 101 : Religions of the World
- REL 102 : Religion, Spirituality, and the Meaning of Life
Visual and Performing Arts (3 credit hours) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available.
- ART 200 : Art in General Culture
- ART 204E : Art, Power and Society
- ARTH 205 : Survey of World Art I: Prehistoric to Renaissance
- ARTH 206 : Survey of World Art II: Renaissance to Modern
- DANC 215 : The Dance Experience
- MUS 200 : Music in General Culture
- MUS 203 : Music in America
- MUS 206 : Introduction to Global Music
- THEA 210 : Introduction to Theatre
Literature (3 credit hours) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available.
- ENG 221 : Literature/Culture/Ideas
- ENG 222 : Genre(s)
- ENG 235 : Survey of English Literature: From Beowulf to the 18th Century
- ENG 236 : Survey of English Literature: 18th Century to Modern
- ENG 239 : Studies in World Literature
- ENG 247 : Survey of American Literature: From the Beginning to the Civil War
- ENG 248 : Survey of American Literature: From the Civil War to the Modern Period
- ENG 260 : Survey of African-American Literature
- HUM 200 : Great Works of Literature
The Natural World
Quantitative Reasoning If a math course is required for your 1st-semester, it will be indicated above in the major recommendations section . Otherwise, math is not required for your major the 1st-semester. You will enroll in a math class in a later semester based on your ALEKS score. Talk with your advisor about your ALEKS score during Orientation.
Physical Principles (3 credit hours, unless indicated) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available. ISCI 172 is recommended.
- ASTR 120 : The Solar System
- ASTR 121 : Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
- CHEM 120 : Concepts of Chemistry
- CHEM 131 : General Chemistry (lab co-requisite CHEM 131L)
- ISAT 100 : Environmental and Energy Sustainability
- ISAT 112 : Environmental Issues in Science and Technology (lab included) - 4 cr hours
- ISCI 101 : Physics, Chemistry and the Human Experience
- ISCI 172 : Physical Science for Teachers (IdLS, some COE majors only)
- PHYS 121 : The Physical Nature of Light and Sound (lab included) - 4 cr hours
- PHYS 140 : College Physics I (lab co-requisite PHYS 140L)
- PHYS 215 : Energy and the Environment
- PHYS 240 : University Physics I (lab co-requisite PHYS 240L)
Natural Systems (3 credit hours, unless indicated) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available. ISCI 171 is recommended.
- ANTH 196 : Biological Anthropology (optional lab co-requisite ANTH 196L)
- BIO 103 : Contemporary Biology
- BIO 140 : Foundations of Biology I (lab co-requisite BIO 140L)
- BIO 270 : Human Physiology (lab co-requisite BIO 270L)
- GEOL 102 : Environment: Earth
- GEOL 110 : Physical Geology (lab co-requisite GEOL 110L)
- GEOL 115 : Earth Systems and Climate Change (lab co-requisite GEOL 115L)
- GEOL 210 : Applied Physical Geology
- GEOL 211 : Introduction to Oceanography
- ISAT 113 : Biotechnical Issues in Science & Technology (lab co-requisite ISAT 113L)
- ISCI 171 : Earth & Planetary Sciences for Teachers (IdLS, some COE majors only)
Lab Experience (1 credit hour, unless indicated) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available. ISCI 173 is recommended.
- ANTH 196L : Biological Anthropology Lab
- BIO 140L : Foundations of Biology I Lab (take with BIO 140)
- BIO 270L : Human Physiology Lab (take with BIO 270)
- CHEM 131L : General Chemistry Lab (take with CHEM 131)
- GEOL 110L : Physical Geology Lab (take with GEOL 110)
- GEOL 115L : Earth Systems and Climate Change Lab (take with GEOL 115)
- ISAT 113L : Biotechnical Issues in Science & Technology Lab (take with ISAT 113)
- ISCI 104 : Scientific Perspectives (IdLS, some COE majors only)
- ISCI 173 : Life & Environmental Science for Teachers (COE students only, 3 credits)
- PHYS 140L : General Physics Lab I (take with PHYS 140)
- PHYS 240L : University Physics Lab I (take with PHYS 240)
American & Global Perspectives
The American Experience (4 credit hours) If you are waiting for AP, IB, CIE or dual enrollment credit for history or government, do not enroll until you have received your results.
- HIST 225 : U.S. History
- JUST 225 : Justice and American Society
- POSC 225 *: U.S. Government
The Global Experience (3 credit hours) You may enroll in one of these classes, if available.
- AAAD 200 : Introduction to African American and Diaspora Studies
- ANTH 195 : Cultural Anthropology
- ECON 200 : Introduction to Macroeconomics
- GEOG 200 : Geography: The Global Dimension
- HM 225E : Tourism in a Global Context
- POSC 200 *: Global Politics
- SOCI 110 : Social Issues in a Global Context
*POSC 200 and POSC 225 cannot both be used to satisfy this area.
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