This year, as I’ve mentioned previously, has been my most deliberate year. I now have a repertoire of techniques drawn from inquiry, knowledge building, integrative and design thinking and have been able to strategically move students though a collaborating, thinking and problem-solving journey. This is new. The results are interesting. In previous years I’ve been testing ideas with no idea what might result; now I have reached, “If…Then”. For the first time I feel that I have truly produced a different kind of student. My students -the ones who get it, because of course there are degrees of understanding and I don’t want anyone to believe that all students have reached this point – think differently and I can see it.
A few events stand out to demonstrate this, which I can only describe as spontaneous problem-solving mode.
1. Students are asking for integrative thinking problems to solve. I’ve given a group one that all schools have yet to solve: late arrivals. Our school has about 25 students per day who arrive late. Try to imagine getting your troops ready for battle (as in you’ve taught the lesson), the troop is now ready to march forward and then a soldier suddenly arrives asking,”What’s the plan?” It’s one of those things that makes our job difficult. We have endless discussions about it and no solutions. I’ve handed the problem to a few students to explore. I don’t know if they’ll solve it, but they are drawing upon their strategies.
2.A discussion about an uncomfortable desk caused a group of students to immediately switch into problem exploration mode where they leveraged each other with yes…and to generate ideas about how to improve the desk. They ended up with a prototype drawing – including measurements – on the board and were ready to rapid fail their ideas. They weren’t merely brainstorming. They were very deliberately drawing upon the thinking and problem-solving toolkit to work their way through the problem.
Here’s the thing: I don’t have the resources in my room for where this should have gone next. There’s no workshop with hammers, saws, drills, paint, etc to build and test their ideas. I feel like I’ve opened Pandora’s Box – but in a good way. I have students burning with desire to think, problem-solve and create – and no meaningful place for them to go.