Unlocking Creative Thinking with Problem-Based Learning

Daniel Curry

Daniel Curry, Director & Principal, Vega Schools

Unlocking Creative Thinking with Problem-Based Learning

Increasingly, creativity is a skill sought after by employers. Creativity is needed for our future generation of entrepreneurs. It gives the advantage in an ever-changing marketplace. Unfortunately, creativity is often ignored or actively subdued in many schools.

Children are born creative. It is a natural talent needed for survival of our species, yet the last century following the industrial revolution transformed societies and schools. Schools became like factories, treating every child the same and expecting all children to conform to a single ideal. Rote memory trumped creative thinking and deeper understanding. Academic subjects were treated as independent and unrelated to one another.

The best schools in Gurgaon and globally know that old methods of teaching will not prepare our children for the future. The innate curiosity and creativity in children must be encouraged to grow from the earliest age. How is this done? The key is in progressive approaches that mimic real life learning.

For example, in life we face issues, challenges and problems. We apply what we know, research what we don’t know, and come up with a solution that makes sense for us. In life, there is never one single correct answer. We get better at solving problems the more we do it. Imagine how effective we would be at solving problems if we had been experiencing it all throughout our schooling!

This requires top schools in Gurgaon to provide a structure that puts students at the center of the classroom, asking them open-ended questions, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas, encouraging them to come up with creative solutions, and embracing failure as just another learning opportunity. Progressive schools will actively solicit divergent thinking; we hope that our students will be far more creative than us - so why would we limit them to learning just our ideas?

Problem Based Learning presents students with an interesting question or challenge with real life application. These questions are age appropriate and tied to expected learning outcomes. The teachers are coaches and guides who help students identify what they know and what they need to know to address the question. There is no one right answer, and students must apply learning from a variety of subjects (maths, English, science as well as art, music and more) in their solutions.

Teachers ask open ended questions and help students to strengthen their thinking and understanding. Explicit instruction is given as and when needed to overcome challenges in addressing the challenge. Well designed problem based learning requires highly trained teachers and plenty of planning. The design ensures the various subject specific learning goals will be met in the course of the unit. The subject teachers work together in planning to ensure all the objectives are met in a natural and meaningful way.

In this process, students learn to manage their own learning. The topics are relevant and meaningful to them, which engages them in finding solutions. They have voice and choice in how they approach solutions and how they present their findings. They become problem solvers from day one, and over the course of their school years become highly proficient in creative thinking and problem solving.

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