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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Teach Creative Problem Solving or Nothing

It took me a year and a half to get this straight.  Everything in school from kindergarten to a doctorate degree should be phrased in terms of creative problem solving.

No matter what the content is, it fits somewhere in the process of problem solving:

  • Finding new information to identify the problem
  • Processing that information to create and test possible solutions
  • Presenting the best solution in meaningful ways to the people who need to it
We know problem based learning is an engaging and effective teaching model when done correctly.  Yet somehow administrators and teachers get so focused on tests that they overlook its importance.  Or maybe they're afraid to let go and trust that successful problem solvers can also figure out standardized tests.

Regardless, this is my mission from here out.  If I'm talking to teachers or students, it will all be phrased in the context of creative problem solving.  If we ignore creativity and problem solving at the expense of right answers in content areas we miss the point.  

When I realized this, a few other things became clear:
  • True problem solving and creativity are hard to measure on standardized tests, but that's exactly why they need our focus.  Computers would have a hard time scoring such tests.  Tip:  Being able to do what computers can't is a good thing.
  • Any technology standards, attempts at technology integration or what are referred to as call 21st century learning skills are addressed perfectly in the context of creative problem solving.  Technology simply becomes the best tool to aid in the problem solving process.  
  • We know students feel that what they're learning in high school is irrelevant.  If teachers would frame their lessons in light of real world problems that can be addressed across curriculum areas this would be less of an issue.  Remind them:  Every class is providing tools for solving problems.  It's an unpleasant fact of life that problems always show up.  Good skills to address problems at all levels will always be relevant.

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