But are we as educators, explicitly teaching learners how to do this?
Are we giving them the skills required to create a brighter future?
The New Zealand Curriculum is built around eight principles which embody what is important in school curriculum design. One of these principles is Future Focus, encouraging our learners to keep an eye on the future and consider the ways we can creatively and positively impact on it.
I am a huge fan of the Future Problem Solving Programme created by creativity expert, E. Paul Torrance. This programme “kills two birds with one stone” so to speak, addressing the NZC’s Future Focus principle while also explicitly teaching the skills of identifying and solving wicked problems.
Twelve months ago I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a role as a Future Problem Solving (FPS) Coach alongside existing coach Greg Pearce. Future Problem Solving has a long history at our school, and we’ve seen the enormous benefits our learners reap from being part of this international programme.
My involvement has been in the Global Issues Problem Solving Programme (GIPS). This programme involves learners researching a meaty topic for the term. Topics are fascinating, and there is a huge variety of concepts explored; previous topics have included Treatment of Animals, Disappearing Languages, Medical Ethics, Nanotechnology and Recovery from Disaster. Learners immerse themselves in the term’s meaty topic before being engaged in a lock up situation. This is a two-hour competition where individuals and teams are presented
with a futuristic scenario based on the topic. They employ a six-step problem solving process, completing a booklet during this time.
Initially, FPS was implemented at our school as a way to extend our learners who’d been identified at gifted. However, we have seen such benefits for these girls that we’ve broadened the programme and encourage all Year 5-8 learners who are interested to nominate themselves to take part. Other teachers comment on the critical and creative thinking skills they see in their programmes from learners involved in FPS. Students who have participated in the programme frequently comment on how much being part of FPS has impacted on
their learning in other areas, and indeed on how much it is now second nature for them to use the process when considering and making decisions in their everyday lives.
There are many things I love about this programme:
1. Participants are required to IDENTIFY the problems themselves, not just solve a problem already selected for them.
2. The programme is balanced in that it provides both a welldefined structure, while also encouraging highly creative thinking. This is wonderful for our perfectionist learners who like the safety net of a
structure and need encouragement to take risks and think outside the square.
3. The programme rewards risk taking and thinking creatively. Our awesome quirky thinkers absolutely love FPS.
Ben Nistor, a postgrad student at the University of Auckland recently made this comment:
“Over recent years, I have reflected how my involvement with FPS at school was critical in shaping the way I perceive the world. I also believe FPS challenged me to be part of developing, discussing and enacting the
solutions we require across society for a multitude of global and domestic challenges.”
I encourage you to consider implementing this programme into your school. You will be blown away by the levels of engagement and the growth you observe in your learners.
I leave you with this quote from Hannah Hudson, International Senior Individual GIPS Champion and presenter of this amazing Ted talk:
“If other students are given opportunities such as the opportunities that I have received through Future Problem Solving, then they too may become passionate about thinking, engaging in our future, and positively changing the world, like I am. In a world where we have no way of knowing where our lives will lead us, these passions are fundamental to empower our young people to cope with whatever challenges we face tomorrow.”
Tips for a successful FPS Programme in your school.......
1. Make every effort to attend an FPS workshop. This is a challenging programme, and you will feel so much more confident implementing it if you have been to a training day.
2. Honour the programme by giving it class time. We are fortunate to have 90 minutes per week.
3. Start the year with a “taster” session for all learners, looking out for those who thrive in this type of environment. You might be surprised.
4. Allow students to selfnominate. Consult with class teachers too, but be open-minded about the learners you include in the programme. This programme is fantastic for quirky thinkers.
5. Start each session with fun and creative thinking games. Drama works well. Ensure you have lots of starter activities where the learners work in teams.
6. Reach out to other FPSers. Check out the FPSNZ website. Follow the incredible Robyn Boswell (@boz23) on Twitter and join the Future Problem Solving New Zealand Facebook page for fantastic resources based on the current topic.