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Why is problem solving important?

Future Problem Solving teaches students HOW to think, not WHAT to think, using a problem solving process. Just why is problem solving important? We answer that question.

Retired affiliate directors Brenda Darnell (Kentucky) and Cyd Rogers (Texas) collaborated together to share some tips on the important role parents play in their Future Problem Solving students’ experience.

Students increase their understanding about a topic or situation

In Global Issues, students analyze and work through important futuristic topics. In Community Projects, students gain understanding about a community issue they identify, then implement real solutions as a result of that understanding. Although Creative Writing  and Storytelling produce a creative and imaginative product, they begin by developing a basis of information about the topic their stories are based on.

Problem solving promotes critical and creative thinking

The process students use in Future Problem Solving alternates between creative/divergent thinking to generate ideas and critical/convergent thinking to focus and analyze those ideas and to make decisions about them. Creative thinking is important because it broadens our perspective by pushing us out of a linear way of thinking. It instills curiosity and encourages questions, opening us up to the concept of many new ideas. It allows us to think without judgment, showing us that there are many perspectives to any issue, and many innovative solutions to any problem.

Critical thinking helps us think clearly and systematically, teaching us how to break down information and improve our ability to comprehend. It helps identify bias and promote open-mindedness. Knowing how to sort through all the “extra noise” helps us reflect, develop, and justify our decisions. Critical thinking promotes the development of many crucial life and career skills, such as logical thinking, decision-making, and open-mindedness.

Problem solving is empowering

Continually learning and expanding one’s knowledge helps students tackle personal challenges in their lives. Futuristic topics allow students to address world problems that will exist in the future. Self-confidence is boosted as students learn that they can make a difference. Problem solving in our program helps students develop persistence, embrace change, and overcome obstacles – all of which are empowering life skills.

Problem solving is a collaborative approach

Working cooperatively with others helps students realize that a variety of knowledge, perspectives, and experiences can enhance the outcome. Empathy is developed, and relationships are strengthened as students learn to respect other perspectives, opinions and differences. Problem solving improves decision-making, teaches compromise, and reduces conflict as students work together rather than against each other. Students learn to share ideas appropriately and with respect. They become more invested in finding a solution, which can encourage them to take ownership of the problem and follow through on any actions needed to implement the solution.

Problem solving is an essential skill for the workplace

Future Problem Solving addresses the top skills desired in the workplace identified by the World Economic Forum. FPS alumni tell us time and time again that their participation has helped them in their careers.

  • During my entire K-12 tenure, no other experience was more influential or beneficial to my ability to think broadly and creatively than FPS. – Evan, Restoration Biologist
  • In FPS I learned to see undesirable and/or unforeseen circumstances as solvable challenges rather than insurmountable problems. – Danielle, Master Social Worker
  • I learned about conflict and compromise and negotiating the dynamics of a group of very strong-willed, often stubborn teammates under intense pressure – skills I’ve drawn on in my life ever since. – Reuben, History/Social Science Content Support Lead, MA Dept. of Elementary & Secondary Education
  • FPS taught me a problem solving process that I still use today. Whether the problem is change or distrust in an election, the steps to address it are largely the same. – David, Attorney, Wisconsin Ethics Commission

A specific model

A specific model provides a foundation for effective problem solving, as it helps one strategize, prioritize, and make decisions. Future Problem Solving uses the Creative Problem Process (CPS) created by Alex Osborne in the 1940s. He and his colleague, Sidney Parnes, worked to further develop the process in the 50s and 60s. CPS is the basis for many creative problem solving methods used in the business world today.

Terminology in the many problem solving models that exist may vary, but the process and thinking skills are the same. All models incorporate three basic elements: (1) understanding the challenge/ issue/ situation; (2) generating ideas; and (3) preparing for action.

All models (basic elements)Future Problem Solving model
Understanding the challenge/issue/situationStep 1: Identify challenges
Step 2: Select an underlying problem
Generating ideasStep 3: Produce solution ideas
Preparing for actionStep 4: Generate and select criteria
Step 5: Evaluate solutions
Step 6: Develop an action plan

In summary, perhaps Bill Gates in The Road Ahead, says it best: “More than ever, an education that emphasizes general problem-solving skills will be important. In a changing world, education is the best preparation for being able to adapt.”

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April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in Gifted Education. She earned the National Board Certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board Assessor for the certification of others. She was trained and applied the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities, which helped widen the educational scope and boundaries beyond the U.S. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for state level certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.