Similarly, if you rely on focusing alone, you may have too few possibilities from which to choose. The students selected an animal, conducted research on the animal, and then generated lists of questions they had about the animal and its habitat.
Effective problem solvers must think both creatively and critically, generating options and focusing their thinking. They used Hits and Hot Spots to identify the most important questions and to identify four major clusters to guide their subsequent research and planning.
Kopcak (2007), for example, describes using the Brainstorming, Hits and Hot Spots, and Paired Comparison Analysis tools with high school seniors as they worked on the Virginia learning standard "The student will write documented research papers." The students began with a stack of blank sticky notes on which they wrote possible topics (one per sticky note). The family selected the five dogs that they wanted to consider, and writing the name of each breed dog in each row of the matrix under the options column heading.
After covering a chalkboard with sticky notes, the class paused to discuss the characteristics of a good research topic. When you are working with new content, start with familiar tools. Thinking about Grandma and where she lived, the family decided to use the following criteria: The family wrote a word or phrase to represent each criterion as column headings in the matrix.
The students used the Hits and Hot Spots focusing tool to select promising topics and organize them into categories based on theme or overarching topic; they used the Paired Comparison Analysis focusing tool to narrow down the most appealing options. When you are introducing new tools, start with familiar content. When students are comfortable with the basic generating and focusing tools, teachers may guide them in applying these tools through the Creative Problem Solving framework, a model for attaining clarity about tasks, defining problems in a constructive way, generating possible solutions, preparing for action and successful implementation of solutions, and dealing with change. They decided to use a 1–5 rating scale, with 1 as the lowest rating and 5 as the highest rating.
Other examples of applications of the tools in content areas include Be deliberate about applying the basic tools in several different content areas, to help students learn how to transfer their learning about the tools across contexts. For more information about the Creative Problem Solving framework, see the resources at the Center for Creative Learning. They evaluated each option against each criterion and totaled the ratings for each option.Students who are competent in not only the basics of content areas but also the basics of productive and creative thinking will be lifelong learners, knowledge creators, and problem solvers who can live and work effectively in a world of constant change. Later, after completing their reading, they discussed how they used the tool and considered the extent to which it helped them make a good choice. Then, he generated ways to improve or modify each of those parts.Teachers can incorporate instruction in creative and critical thinking into the curriculum in a number of ways, either singly or in combination. The students prepared a proposal about their choices and were rewarded by winning approval for trips to both the invention center and the symphony concert!I recommend that teachers follow several guidelines. Return to Figure 1Sequencing: SML A group of middle school students decided to plan and conduct a campaign in their school to make students aware of the importance of community service by young people.Individuals or groups use generating tools to produce many, varied, or unusual possibilities; to develop new and interesting combinations of possibilities; or to add detail to new possibilities. Using the Hits and Hot Spots tool, they grouped (or clustered) their Hits into the following five Hot Spots: Activities, Refreshments, Place, Time, and Cost. Several students volunteered to bring in their CDs and supply the music.When using these tools, it is important to follow four broad guidelines, or ground rules (Treffinger, Isaksen, & Stead-Dorval, 2006): Brainstorming is probably the most widely known generating tool (but often the most misunderstood and misused tool, too). They decided to host an after-school party in the cafeteria. Return to Figure 1ALo U: Refining and Developing One group of students generated ideas on how to improve communication between the deaf and the hearing members of the school community.Next, provide opportunities to apply the tools in lessons or activities related to specific content areas. The presentation was highly successful, and more than 25 other students in the school became involved in volunteer work in the community. However, there were rules about having pets in the apartment building.Any of the generating and focusing tools can be used to help students master a variety of specific content standards in many areas (see Treffinger, 2007; Treffinger et al., 2004a, 2004b, 2004c). Return to Figure 1Evaluation Matrix Cindy's grandmother lives alone in an apartment. Also, Grandma didn't have a lot of money to spend on a pet.Introduce the tools directly, using engaging, open-ended questions from everyday life. They wanted to build interest by sharing information about a particular service project in their community for which the students could volunteer.Be clear that the purpose of such out-of-context work is to gain confidence and skill in using the tool, so everyone will be successful when using it in context. Creative problem solving: An introduction (4th ed.). They used the Sequencing (SML) tool to arrange a number of possible action steps in a workable and appropriate order.