Dakota Lee Martinez

Web Developer Teacher Singer-Songwriter

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A Systematic Approach to Solving Problems

When I interact with students, I like to integrate an interactive, inquisitive approach that's focused on soliciting incremental feedback driving towards a clear picture of the task at hand. When students are struggling on their journey to learn how to code, I find that there's usually something missing or lacking in their process and that focusing on these 5 phases of inquiry can help them develop better learning habits.

What am I trying to do?

Before starting to code, you want to be crystal clear on what success looks like. Before you commit to code, or an approach, having a high level picture of how the pieces will fit together is essential to stay focused as you work through the rest of the phases.

What's happening instead of that?

Coming to grips with the current behavior of the code, and what the feedback you're seeing means, is essential as a beginner. You don't just stop at "it's not working :("–you pay close attention to what is actually happening and compare that to what you want.

How can I explain what's currently happening?

Before trying to fix the problem or making the feature work or making any change at all, the current behavior needs to be explained. As a beginner, you need to make sure you understand the feedback you're getting from the computer. Don't make a change until you can explain current behavior.

Given my understanding, what change can I make to get closer to my desired result?

After explaining why the code behaves the way it does, the next step is to come up with a change that could take us closer to the desired behavior. But, let's make things interesting here–if you make a prediction about what should happen after you make a particular change, you give yourself the opportunity to be right or wrong. If you do this in a way where you can make the prediction and get instant feedback about whether it was right or not, you'll be tying in your brain's reward structure. When you're right, you'll get a hit of dopamine that will get you addicted to thinking about that concept correctly. When you're wrong, you got some reading to do!

When I make the change, do I get the result I expected?

At this point, you want to re-anchor to the task at hand. If you got the expected result, you can repeat the phases starting with the first. If you didn't, then you want to return to phase three and explain why you got what you did instead of what you expected.