C&C Mentoring Tips: Keys to Effective Problem-Solving with Students
The following tips for effective problem-solving with students were adapted from the book, Conducting Student-Driven Interviews: Practice strategies for increasing student involvement and addressing behavior problems, by John J. Murphy.
Focus on future possibilities rather than past problems
- Focus on small, changeable aspects of a student’s future.
- Don’t spend too much time on “problem admiration” – allow students to share their concerns and frustrations, validate their feelings, and then move to what the student wants to be different very quickly.
Encourage students to keep doing what works
- Identify what is right in students’ lives and help them apply those strengths and resources toward solutions.
- Build on exceptions! Help students to see when the problem does not occur and think about what they’re doing right in those situations.
- Find out what students have tried. Ask about what worked, even a little (Pohl).
Encourage students to do something different if what they’re doing doesn’t work
- Students often get stuck in a pattern of trying similar things over and over again and expecting a different results
- Encourage students to try something else when what they’re doing or the solutions they have tried don’t work.
Meet students where they're at
- Hear and respect students' opinions
- Acknowledge students' freedom to think for themselves and make their own choices
- Help students think through the choices they have made and will make
- What have they learned from past choices? What choices align with your values? What choices would you feel most comfortable with
Use reflective listening skills - SPACE (adapted from Costa & Kallick, 2000)
- Silence: Pausing – permit yourself and students the opportunity to pause and reflect in silence
- Paraphrasing: Rephrasing students’ comments in shorter form to demonstrate you heard and understand what they said
- Accepting nonjudgmentally: Accepting, affirming, and validating students’ perceptions and experiences
- Clarifying: Asking questions to ensure your understanding; helping students to clarify the problem and describe it in observable terms
- Extending: "Tell me more about…"
Help students prioritize problems
- Help boost student hope by narrowing a wide range of problems into a specific, manageable focus
- Allow students to decide which problem they think is most important to focus on
Help students build solutions to their problems by creating goals that matter to them
Identify and draw on natural resources in the students' lives such as interests, talents, other adults, peers, etc.
- Resilience. Ask students:
- How have you kept things from getting worse?
- Why haven’t you given up? How have you managed to hang in there?
- Special interests, talents, and hobbies. Ask students:
- What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
- If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?
- Heroes and influential people. Ask students:
- Who are your biggest heroes? Who do you look up to or respect the most?
- Who at school do you respect the most?
- How could these people help you? What advice would they give you?
- Ideas and opinions. Ask students:
- I’ve heard other people’s ideas, but I want to know what you think would help improve things?
- What would you say to someone in a similar situation? What can I (as a mentor) say to someone who…(Pohl)?
Review of the book by Angie Pohl, PhD.