creative problem-solving

3 ways to support creative problem-solving in schools

Global survey claims creative problem-solving is crucial for students, but is not taught enough in schools

The vast majority of educators and policymakers believe students should develop creative problem-solving skills in school–but the problem, they say, is that not enough schools teach this concept.

Ninety-seven percent of educators and 96 percent of policymakers in a global research study from Adobe said creative problem-solving is important for today’s students, and they said they believe students who excel at creative problem-solving will have higher-earning jobs in the future. In fact, creative problem-solving skills are in high demand today for senior-level and higher-paying careers.

But despite the evident need for such skills, schools are not committed to teaching them. Sixty-nine percent of educators and 61 percent of policymakers said they agree that today’s curricula do not emphasize creative problem-solving enough.

(Next page: Three approaches to teaching creative problem-solving in schools)

The survey, which includes responses from 1,600 secondary and higher-ed educators and 400 policymakers, identifies numerous barriers, many at the global level, that prevent schools from adequately incorporating creative problem-solving lessons in classrooms.

Those barriers include:

  • Lack of time to create (79 percent)
  • Lack of educator training for new software (77 percent)
  • Lack of access to software in classrooms (73 percent)
  • Lack of student access to software at home (73 percent)
  • Lack of educator control over lessons in classrooms (63 percent)

More than half of educators said the do not have access to the tools (58 percent) and training (55 percent) they need to foster creative problem-solving skills. School-budget restraints and a lack of time, technology, and training keep teachers from getting the knowledge they need.

“The reason I started teaching creative problem-solving was because, sometimes, students don’t know how to draw out of themselves the best solution to a problem,” said Mark Shufflebottom, professor, bachelor of interaction design at Sheridan College in Ontario. “We’re dealing with students young in age and they don’t have a great deal of experience to draw on. It’s very easy for them to look at something else [for the solution]. We don’t want them to do that. We want the idea to come from their own understanding.”

“There is a clear gap between what educators and policymakers know tomorrow’s workforce needs, and what today’s students are learning in school,” said Tacy Trowbridge, global lead for education programs at Adobe. “Educators, policymakers, and industry—technology in particular—need to come together to improve opportunities for students. Creative technologies can help educators teach and nurture critically important ‘soft’ skills, and policies and curricula need to evolve to complete the equation.”

Educators and policymakers are in agreement when they say they believe it will take a variety of solutions to better nurture creative problem-solving, saying that it should be better integrated into today’s curricula (89 percent of educators and 87 percent of policymakers), and that current curricula should be reformed to better support creative problem-solving (87 percent and 88 percent, respectively).

Eighty percent of surveyed U.S. educators said they believe current policies hurt their abilities to nurture creative problem-solving.

But there are three main ways to bridge the skills gap:
1. Training, including additional professional development for educators and requiring more digital-literacy courses.
2. Curriculum reform, such as revisiting standardized-testing requirements and encouraging more local control of curricula rather than national standardization of curricula.
3. Technology, such as allocating more budget to schools for technology and prioritizing access to technology for underprivileged students.

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Laura Ascione
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