How ‘Solution Fluent’ are your students?
‘Solution fluency ‘ may sound like yet more jargon, but it is a skill that dovetails neatly with project based learning and the promotion of creative thinking. On the Global Digital Citizen website it is defined as ‘the ability to think creatively to solve problems in real time by clearly defining the problem, designing an appropriate solution, delivering the solution, and then evaluating the process and the outcome. This is about whole-brain thinking—creativity and problem solving applied on-demand.’
Commonly, solution fluency is broken down into 6 steps, the 6-D’s: define, discover, dream, design, deliver, debrief.
- Preliminarily define the problem;
- research it and sharpen the definition;
- begin thinking about how to address and answer the questions the problem poses;
- write, draw, code, photograph, record, build the project;
- present the project to an audience; and finally,
- seek out and address feedbacks for the sake of improving what has already been done.
Some or much of what you do in your classroom helps develop solution fluency. The projects, the essays, the home experiments you assign all challenge your students to address components of solution fluency. However, too often we teachers do too much of the work for our students. We define our assignments too specifically (write a 3 page paper on Wilson’s 14 points). We assign the research materials too narrowly (read chapter xyz and write a…). We often skip student presentations entirely, and feedbacks (a few red ink comments) are commonly presented only at the very end, after the project (and its learning) has been completed.
Imagine, instead, that you are your students’ coach. You can’t throw the pass or hit the pitch for your students; you can only help them practice skills, and teach them strategies.
Here’s a template that you can use to design a project that will help develop solution fluency, creativity, and critical thinking:
We often present history, literature, and science without building context or comparative examples. Below, I outline the following project for a history class, but I’ll give brief examples of how to customize it for literature and science. Math teachers: I’d love to hear how you might apply this to your classes.
Core idea: compare a period in a nation’s or a people’s history to a previous period (or imagined future time) .
- What did Manhattan look like in 1950, 1850, 1650, and describe an individual’s life who lived there in each of those periods? What will Manhattan look like in 2150?
- Compare the meaning and impact of democracy on life in Greece in 300 BCE and in the US today. Describe individual’s lives in each era and be sure to address the issue of who benefited, and why, and who did not benefit, and why.
- Compare Israelite Judaism in the time of Herod to Judaism today.
You, as coach, will provide guidance based on age, experience, and need, for individual students or student teams as they build their project in the following stages:
- develop a list of readings and websites to research;
- prepare a preliminary outline describing the periods and what students expect to find;
- enrich the project with images, videos, audio clips, graphs, infographics, and tables;
- prepare a working project;
- present project to the class, school, parents;
- obtain critical feedback from all students on the quality of the presentation (you might want to grade student feedback, as well!);
- revise project based on feedback.
Again, depending on age, experience, and need, students will benefit from a clear set of ‘checkpoints’ when each stage of the project is due.
In a literature class you can compare two books, two poems, chapters in a book. Or you can have students assess the changes to a character over time. Compare Lear or Romeo in Act 1 to an act near the end of the play (Lear on the heath, or Romeo beneath the balcony and then again in Act V, Scene 1). Perhaps have students present those changes through a skit, or by acting out particular moments/scenes in the play or story.
In a science class have students build a series of models showing what happens to chemicals/elements during various stages in a reaction. Or have them create a slideshow, video, or diorama of environmental or evolutionary changes to a species or a landscape. Or have them carefully document through text and image the steps they take in solving a qualitative analysis problem, or in building a project for a science fair.
Rich sites; provocative articles:
The original idea for the project template I provided above came from the following booklets available at no charge from the Global Digital Citizen website:
Project Based Learning, pdf booklets with grade-appropriate project ideas.
“Solution Fluency” described carefully but briefly:
I welcome connections with you through LinkedIn and Google+. However, out of respect for your privacy, I will not initiate a connection. For LinkedIn you can click the button below (if your emailer displays it properly). Or for both LinkedIn and Google+, go to your home page, and in the search box at the top of the page, type in my name, Stephen Berer.
Wishing you the best,