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I like asking my students what
do they mean when they say this word “a problem”?
use or hear this word almost every day.
what is the meaning of it?
natural response includes such characteristic as “a difficulty” – but is it
really a difficulty if we do not really care about it?
a personal difficulty, which we need to overcome.
there is a specific goal we want to
does it mean that every time when we need to have or to make, or to find something
we don’t have yet, we are solving a problem?
answer is – no.
we need to achieve a certain goal, and we know what to do in order to achieve
it, when we know what actions in what order we have to perform – it is not a
problem, it is a task.
task may be complicated, may require a long sequence of steps, some of those
steps may be hard to perform, but all we have to do in order to achieve the
goal is just – do.
we need to achieve a goal and we don’t know how to do it, we don’t know which
steps in which order to enact – that’s a problem.
phrase represents the essence of the situation which we call “a problem”.
phrase is: “Huston, we have a problem!”
it is said, it always means that something unexpected happened, something unpredictable
and there is no manual which provides the description of what to do in this
situation, and the solution has to be crated basically from scratch. If people in Huston would hear: "Huston, we have a task!", they would think: "OK, those guys just finished on task from the list and moving on to the next one. Routine".
example provides a good illustration of the difference between “a problem” and
When the solution is known and has to be
applied–it is a task. Of
course, one who needs to perform the task may need first to search for the
description of the steps (using a manual, like a customer service
representative who is flipping through pages of his/her manual to answer our
questions when we complain about some service issues; naturally, nowadays, a
book may be replaced by a computer – does not make any difference).
When the solution is not known and has to
be created – that is a problem.
key word is “created”.
solve a problem, one must be able to create various scenaria, assess those
scenaria, adjust or even toss away and create new ones, until the solution will
be “found”; found – but not as the result of a search in a database of known
solutions, but as result of a creative process.
is an intrinsic ability of a problem solver.
A person with no developed creativity will
not be able to solve problems. Period (although may be very good at performing
we need more creative people than we have now?
think - we do.
that case, the next question is – how can we teach people to be creative?
creativity even teachable?
have met many advocates for teaching students to be creative, for helping
students to advance their critical thinking skills, etc.
all those advocates could not answer the question – how to teach it?
were acting rather as motivational speakers.
them: “How to teach creativity?”, and the answer always: “You are a teacher,
you need to figure it out, my mission is just to inspire you to do that”.
for more than a decade I have been teaching my students to be creative (of
course, I never had a 100 % success, but I definitely helped some
students to become more creative than they were before taking my course).
I know how to do that (1. please,
pardon my bragging, but I am just following the leadership :); 2. of course I
am not the only one who does that). but
people who do and people who motivate aren't often the same people).
following publications offer glimpses of various aspects of that teaching.