Foundations for Implementation



Problem-Solving Process

The problem-solving process uses data to plan, deliver, and evaluate a multi-tiered system of supports. It is a structured process that includes:

  • The people who are affected by the problem, working with people who can help
  • A deliberate focus on using each step of the process with fidelity
  • Analysis that focuses on things people can control
  • Follow-up that includes a review of data to make sure the strategies made a difference

Problem-Solving Model

The problem-solving model is an evidence-based way of work that can be applied to any level:

  • individual/inter-personal
  • small groups
  • organizations (schools, districts, state)

When used with fidelity, the problem-solving process has been shown to improve student outcomes (Bahr, Fernstrom, Fuchs, Fush, & Stecker, 1990; Burns, Vanderwood & Ruby, 2005; Curtis, Castillo, Cohen, 2008; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1989; Gutkin & Curtis, 2009; Kovaleski, Gickling, Morrow, & Swank, 1999; Ruby, Crosby-Cooper, & Vanderwood, 2011).

The Steps

The number of steps in a problem solving process may vary, but all structured problem solving follows a general sequence of activities:

  • Describe the difference between current and desired levels of performance
  • Define that difference (the problem) in observable and measurable terms
  • Develop multiple ideas about why the problem is occurring, focusing on things people can control
  • Determine which of those ideas have supporting evidence, which sometimes means  collecting or examining additional data 
  • Create a plan to address the reason for the problem, using strategies that are likely to work (e.g., “evidence-based”)
  • Identify ways to monitor how accurately the plan was followed, the effectiveness of the plan, and the resources needed to implement the plan
  • Implement the plan
  • Evaluate whether the plan was effective, revisiting the problem solving process as needed

Additional Reading