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Problem solving for personal growth

Published on 21/09/17

From a very young age children test new ideas, discover their capabilities and develop as people by taking risks and trying. Along the way they will, inevitably, make many mistakes and encounter many stumbling blocks.

Part of our approach to learning in Pre-Prep prepares children to react positively and proactively when such situations arise. As a new academic year begins a fundamental concept has been focused on with pupils in 2C: problem solving.

When a situation does not go as expected and a problem arises the initial emotional response can often be a negative one; shock, anger, fear, sadness, embarrassment or a mixture. Encouraging children to stay calm and be mindful of the situation they are in helps them to gain some perspective on the problem. For example, if a child knocks a tin of blueberries onto the floor they may be encouraged to take a deep breath and step back. Through this, the child gains some time to take control of their emotions, whilst giving them more space to assess the situation.

 

Deciding what the best course of action is, given the current problem, can require some open minded thinking. Encouraging children to look at a situation from multiple view points can help them choose a creative and effective solution. For example, the child that dropped the blueberries may acknowledge they need to pick them back up and after some critical thinking decide that it would be best to do so with a piece of paper towel, rather than their bare hands. Scaffolding children’s ideas through careful questioning helps them assess the practicalities of their suggestions, whilst giving them ownership of any solutions created.

 

Oh no, the blueberries are escaping again! What could you use to collect them in this time?”

 

 

The first solution, even if carefully chosen, may not be the most effective one. The child picking up the blueberries may discover that they roll off the paper towel and back onto the floor. Preparing children to continue trying if an idea is ineffective, rather than becoming disheartened, is a crucial life skill. Focusing on the learning journey and the skills they are developing (“Oh no, the blueberries are escaping again! What could you use to collect them in this time?”) instills children with humour to see the lighter side of any problem and the resilience to persevere to a positive conclusion.

 

Once a successful solution has been found and implemented the problem as a whole can be assessed. Taking time to think about their thinking process and the skills they have gained allows children to contextualise their learning. After picking up the blueberries successfully, the child may reflect that the tin was placed unbalanced on the side and that round items are more likely to roll off paper towel. This knowledge can then be applied to a number of similar situations, reducing the likelihood of the same problem arising again in the future and increasing the chance that if it does they will now be better able to tackle it.

 

Life is full of surprises and even with the most detailed planning and preparation we cannot foresee the future and the challenges it may present. However, we can equip children will the skills required for effective, positive problem solving when such challenges arise. So that our Future Creators, Future Innovators, Future Thinkers, Future Leaders, and Future Change-makers see a problem as a purposeful opportunity to develop their ideas, skills and personalities. In our Pre-Prep curriculum we focus on learning characteristics with equal importance to the academic curriculum as vital learning skills for future development.

 

By Mrs Keri Lennon, Year 2 City Class teacher

 

Life is full of surprises and even with the most detailed planning and preparation we cannot foresee the future and the challenges it may present. However, we can equip children will the skills required for effective, positive problem solving when such challenges arise."

 

 

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