Allow for "Fuzzy" Outcomes

Encourage students to create "fuzzy" or "out of the box" solutions to problems.

Photo of Kris Swanson
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Too often, adults give students problems to solve with "correct" solutions already in their minds. By steering students to our perceived correct answer, we are preventing them from fully engaging in STEM problems and from creating truly innovative solutions. Give students open-ended problems, and allow students to take them in new directions, as long as they can justify how their solution has solved the problem.

Note: This contribution started as a sticky note posted by a participant at the San Francisco Teachers Guild event - I just ran with it!


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Photo of Kris Swanson

Students seem to have very little trouble finding problems to solve if we just ask them. We asked teams of 7th graders at my school to define a specific problem anywhere in the world, and work through the design thinking process to create solutions for their problems. Our 90+ students pitched their solutions last week, are currently working on specific designs, and will begin building them in November. Some problems are large and global, while some are local or even personal. While teachers are there to guide with respects to DT and ensuring that they are being realistic in their plans, the students have done the majority of the project so far on their own.
I guess my answer is - just ask your students!

Photo of Erin Quinn

Yes! We need to engage our kids in problem-finding rather than having them solve problems we already know the answer to. 

This reminds me of Ewan McIntosh's Ted Talk called the Problem Finders: 
He says there's enough big problems out there we need to solve that we don't need to be inventing pseudo-problems for our students!

Do you have any thoughts about how we teachers can start finding those problems, or support our students in finding them themselves?