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Magazine Issue 86: Complex Problem Solving
August 2017

This month: Thoughts about Complex Problem Solving

Article: Complex Problem Solving
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Wicked Problems

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Wicked Problems

An Article describing difficult problems and offering simple techniques to look for solutions.



This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Creativity, Any Subject

Tags: Problem Based Learning Problem Solving Grit Creativity

Wicked

Once upon a time there lived a young man who wasn't good enough. So he thought and thought about what to do and eventually came up with a plan: he joined a gym and went there every day. Soon his arms and chest became huge and muscly. But the new muscles on his top half were so heavy that his knees gave way and stopped working. They couldn't hold him up any longer.

So the young man went to a doctor who gave him some cream for his knees. As soon as he rubbed it on they were strong again but unfortunately the rest of him came out in a horrible rash. He quickly wiped off the cream but the rash remained. 

Next the young man traveled to a healing pool and the monks there let him bathe in it for a while. When he got out the rash had gone but water had run into his ears and he could no longer hear.

Try as he might he couldn't shake out the water so he asked a friend to hit him on the side of the head. When his friend did as he'd been asked, out shot the water. But the blow was so hard that the young man was knocked unconscious. When he finally came round he couldn't recall a single thing about himself. Not even his name.

That story starts to explain what is called a Wicked Problem. Wicked problems:

  • Are not clearly defined.
  • Keep developing into new problems.
  • Don't have right or wrong solutions.
  • Change once a solution is attempted.

They are complex. They are interesting. They are annoying. And they are all around us right now.

Big, Small, Wicked, Complex

The anticipated impact of global warming is a complex problem. Conflict in the Middle East is a complex problem (some say the most intractable on the planet). Finding the next rent cheque can be a complex problem. Working out how to make and keep friends in the playground can be a complex problem. Keeping your passion for teaching alive in the midst of unreasonable and unnecessary paperwork IS a complex problem.

It's not about the size or scale or impact of the problem, but about how you view it. A problem is a perceived difference between your current state and your desired state. And a complex problem is one that has a little bit of wicked in it too.....

Solving the Problem

Creative and analytic problem solving techniques abound. They abound alot - all over the internet and all over training courses. Here are a few things they have in common.

1. Clearly define the problem. Don't be vague like the young man in the story. Describe what you are seeing, hearing and feeling. Then describe what you want to be seeing, hearing and feeling when the problem is solved.

2. Take a reality check. Is this actually a problem I can and want to solve?

3. Focus on moving from where you are to where you want to be. Actually solve the problem. How?

4. Get creative. Imagine (or ask) what people in other professions would do in your situation. And ask people who've faced a similar challenge themselves.

5. Get analytic. Choose a handful of possible actions. Assess each for pros and cons and give a score. Follow the action with the best score.

6. Assess the outcome. Is the new state as expected? If not is there now a new problem? If all's good, crack on with your life.

Complex Problems in the Classroom

Problem solving in class usually relates to Maths. Exploit this. Apply the skills and attitudes used to struggle with complex maths problems in other places and in other subjects. Pupils generally need to:

  • Recognise that it is a problem.
  • Develop confidence to have a go and to keep having a go at solving it.
  • Have step-by-step processes to hand.
  • Know when they've solve it and be able to celebrate a good solution.

If you work with very young children you're very lucky. They are some of the best problem solvers on the planet. They are unbaggaged by right or wrong. They are unfettered by limited imagination and they are uninhibited when it comes to blurting out genius. 

If you really want to solve a wicked, complex problem, ask some 4-year-olds.


New Resources:

Block Problem Solving (Standard)

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Block Problem Solving (Standard)

A Thinking Skills Tool (standard version) that combines analytic and creative thinking to solve complex problems.



Categories: Thinking Tool, Analytical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Creativity, Other Subject, Secondary

Tags: Problem Solving Creativity Analysis
Free Standard Member Resource: Login or Join for Free to access this resource and others.

Block Problem Solving (Premium)

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Block Problem Solving (Premium) Thinking Skills Tool (premium version) that combines analytic and creative thinking to solve complex problems.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Analytical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Creativity, Other Subject, Secondary

Tags: Problem Solving Creativity Analysis
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Block Problem Solving PowerPoint

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Block Problem Solving PowerPoint

A Thinking Tool Template in PowerPoint to help you teach Block Problem Solving to students and colleagues.



Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Analytical Thinking, Creativity, Other Subject, Secondary

Tags: Problem Solving Creativity Analysis
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Problem Solving Think Sheet

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Problem Solving Think Sheet

A Think Sheet with multiple opportunities for creative problem solving using simple objects.



Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, Other Subject, All Ages

Tags: Problem Based Learning Problem Solving
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Mike's Books:

Multiple Intelligences offers a variety of different ways to tackle any problem.

Multiple Intelligences in Practice
by Mike Fleetham

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Multiple Intelligences in Practice<br>by Mike Fleetham Book giving a clear introduction to multiple intelligences for all age groups. Addresses differentiation, inclusion, engagement and personalised learning through a single coherent philosophy. Gives you concrete examples and case studies of MI in school and shows how MI principles can help you improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Multiple Intelligences, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Multiple Intelligences CPD

Multiple Intelligences - Pocket Pal
by Mike Fleetham

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Multiple Intelligences - Pocket Pal <br> by Mike Fleetham A Book that provides an introduction to the theory of Multiple Intelligences and demonstrates the benefits of using this tool for teaching learners of all ages. Multiple Intelligences (MI) is a powerful tool for enriching your teaching and developing your learners' talents. The book also shows how easily MI can be included in your teaching.


Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Multiple Intelligences, Any Subject, Educators

Tags:

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Problem Solving

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Problem Solving An Article exploring the nature of problems and our methods for seeking solutions. Reveals a simple method to engage with any problem by addressing the Mindset of Solutions.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. 
Albert Einstein 

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. 
Abraham Maslow

What exactly is a problem?

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Thinking Skills, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages, Educators

Tags: Problem Solving Mindset

Skills Think Sheet - Problem Finding

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Skills Think Sheet - Problem Finding A Think Sheet with tasks and challenges to help pupils learn how to find problems rather than simply solve them when they come along.

Categories: Think Sheet, Creative Thinking, Skills-Based Learning, All Ages, Any Subject

Tags: Problem Solving Creative Thinking
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

 

Books:

The Diagrams Book
by Kevin Duncan

The Diagrams Book <br>by Kevin Duncan

50 visual tools for problem solving which can really clarify your thinking. Many leadership and learning applications.

Available from Amazon

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Books, Creativity, Leadership

Tags: Visual Thinking

Websites:

Mind Tools - Problem Solving Skills

Mind Tools - Problem Solving Skills Introductory article on problem solving.

www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_00.htm

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Websites, Leadership

Tags: Problem Solving


Next month we think about... Cognitive Flexibility