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Developing Problem-Solving Skills

By Gavin McLean, International Business Development Director, Edmentum International 

Problem-solving is a key developmental area for students and is a skill set that has lasting, real-world impact. Being creative and introducing real-world applications is an effective way of integrating these skills into the classroom as it also allows students to learn about the world around them while developing practical skills that will support them in the workforce and in life. For example, money management and calculations are vital life skills and crucial in setting young people up for success, but presented as problems to solve also helps develop much-needed critical thinking skills.

A multi-national survey conducted by Adobe Creative Cloud education, found that 90% of educators surveyed stated that schools don’t do enough to integrate creative problem-solving into curricula. Employers also routinely complain that prospective workers lack the problem-solving skills that are essential in today’s workplace – something which is key to achieving success. The challenges are clear but how can we best support teachers and students to ensure they receive a well-rounded education that also develops important skills like problem solving and critical thinking? To this, Tracy Trowbridge, global lead, Education Programs, Adobe said that the answer can be found in collaborative solutions that place an emphasis on soft skills:

“Educators, policymakers and industry—technology in particular—need to come together to improve opportunities for students. Creative technologies can help educators teach and nurture critically important ‘soft’ skills, and policies and curricula need to evolve to complete the equation.”. 

Addressing the challenge

Not only is it important to make learning fun and engaging, it must also be practical in order to help students reinforce what is being taught, with an emphasis on real-world problem-solving skills. This can all be achieved using the PLUS approach (Project, Learn, Use and Show), which is a model used by virtual schools such as Edmentum International’s Calvert Learning, to support students with developing creative problem-solving skills and to bring lessons to life:

PROJECT: Planning the project students will be working on

Projects should be designed to provide students with engaging real-world opportunities to creatively show what they have learned whether that be in groups or independently. They should provide students with a choice in how to plan, present, and be creative in a way that works best for them.

LEARN: Follow with learning opportunities to delve into the project

A variety of active learning opportunities should be available to students to encourage them to think independently and drive the project forward. Alongside this, it’s important checks are put in place to assess understanding at regular intervals throughout the project.

USE: Check understanding and use at the end of each lesson

Assessments used at the end of each lesson help ensure students have achieved a deeper knowledge and have mastered the concepts needed to help them complete their project.

SHOW: Show what has been learnt

When it comes to evaluating the completed projects, it’s important students are given the freedom and flexibility to present their final piece in a number of different formats, including written or digital.

Making an impact

Of course, virtual schooling like Calvert won’t replace traditional schooling, but it’s a valuable tool to extend the overall offering and support students more efficiently by providing a platform to explore problem-solving and enquiry-based learning. This is especially valuable for students who don’t have access to high quality facilities or teaching, as well as students that move around within a country or internationally with their parents, as it gives students the flexibility and support to help them reach their highest potential.

Students work closely with their state-certified online teacher through regular communication via video conferencing, phone, and email. Parental engagement can also be increased as families will play a hands-on role in facilitating collaborative instruction, where the option of ELA resources are available, providing additional phonics and context supports to build foundational skills and promote fluency for non-native English speakers and struggling readers and writers. All with the goal of ensuring every student has the skills they need to succeed in the world of tomorrow.

About Edmentum International and Calvert: Calvert Learning is part of a suite of solutions from Edmentum International and has been helping K–8 students learn outside of traditional classroom settings for over a century. Calvert’s project-based curriculum (aligned to US standards) has been specifically designed to engage students in virtual and blended learning settings and encourage critical thinking. Resources and assignments included throughout each course have been carefully chosen to help students actively engage with their coursework and make real-world learning connections.

Author: Gavin McLean has nearly thirty years’ experience in business and curriculum development in international education. Based in the United Kingdom, Gavin has worked for some of the largest international publishers including Macmillan Education and National Geographic Learning, and has consulted for public and private sector companies, multinational agencies and donors in various global markets. Gavin and his team are dedicated to working with international schools to implement technology that genuinely benefits teachers and students.

+44 (0)7970 101889              gavin.mclean@edmentum.com @Edmentum_INT

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