Getting 'messy’ with problems: the challenges of teaching ‘soft’ OR

Fran Ackermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many, teaching soft "OR" or problem structuring methods (PSMs) within the constraints of a degree program can be a challenge. For example, effort is needed in managing student expectations—particularly as problem structuring methods typically do not give "a single right answer." Then there is the requirement of working interactively with groups—a daunting task to many! Finally, adding the extra consideration of teaching distance-learning students just exacerbates the situation—or does it? However, despite these challenges PSMs clearly provide benefit to many and are a valuable part of an operational researcher's armoury. This paper reflects on a selection of the challenges faced by those teaching such methods, and provides some insights into their management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalINFORMS Transactions on Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • soft operational research methods
  • problem structuring methods
  • teaching
  • qualitative modelling

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