Creativity Tip 3. CPS in YOUR Classroom!
We may not have the time or the discretion to implement the complete Creative Problem Solving process in our classrooms. I want to share with you three ways I have integrated CPS stages into my teaching so that you can decide which one will work for you.
The CPS process requires two distinctly different types of thinking: divergent (open) and convergent (focused). We looked at an overview the five stages of CPS, each of which has BOTH a divergent and a convergent stage. It’s important to explicitly define these two types of thinking for students, and point out when and where they will be using them.
In Creativity Tip #2, we looked at the all-important preliminary, open-ended stage, “mess-finding,” or sensing the problem or need. This begins with a divergent, open exploration phase, followed by the convergent, or focusing stage: which problem or need will we choose to solve? This “critical thinking” stage involves establishing criteria for decision making.
Here are three ways that I have strategically use Creative Problem Solving as an instructional approach to develop students’ “aptitudes of innovators.”
CPS #1. Enrichment Classes: As an enrichment teacher in an elementary school, I lead a “pullout class” of fourth graders who were “compacted” out of the regular curriculum for enrichment. We used the CPS process explicitly (meaning that I taught students the stages) to explore and then focus on this school problem: our antiquated playground was not safe. Together with the school community, we systematically worked through the CPS stages, and two years later the school launched its new handicap accessible, safe playground. This is CPS in its “pure form.”
CPS #2. Problem-Based Learning (PBL): Use the CPS stages to structure PBL curriculum studies in STEM and humanities. The main difference here is that in PBL, the teacher structures the open-ended problem that students explore as they master the required curriculum standards. Writing good PBL units is creative and challenging, and I’ve developed a tool to help that I call the Five-P Planner. (See Teach to Develop Talent, Chapter 8.)
CPS #3. Lesson Plan Development: This is by far the most accessible CPS application, and I used this in my high school English classes where neither #1 or #2 were possible. Review the six CPS stages, and look for ways to use divergent and convergent thinking strategies in your existing lessons. Just remember to explicitly teach where learners are using divergent or convergent thinking. The table below from Teach to Develop Talent gives examples from the model PBL units sampled throughout the book. Note how the tasks also target the aptitudes of innovators.
Source: Paynter, J.L. (2021) Teach to Develop Talent: How to Motivate and Engage Tomorrow’s Innovators Today. Corwin Publishers. Chapter 8.