Squeezing Left Brain Thinking out of the Tube

TEACHER: Write that down folks! Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached.
(Students furiously scribble down Teachers’ latest epistle.” )
JOE STUDENT: Mrs. Smith can impeachment represent a power struggle among the three branches of government?
TEACHER: (ignoring question, continues): Alright now write this down… The Senate failed to get the necessary number of votes to find President Johnson guilty of the impeachment charges.
(Students furiously scribble down Teacher’s latest epistle.)
JOE STUDENT: But Mrs. Smith ….
TEACHER: Joe, that question will not be on next week’s test.
An extreme scenario? I don’t think so, of what I call a teaching mortal sin where the students’  desire to see more deeply into an issue falls victim to a teacher’s headlong rush to cover material.
A Creative Problem Solving (CPS) approach would use the facts as described above as an impetus towards solving the deeper issues associated with the surface level fact and would indeed sharpen a rationale for higher order thinking skills.
So using the the first segment of the CPS process described in the previous post let’s begin to see how a teacher can use facts and data in more complete package that will enable her to be satisfied that the facts are “covered” and that these same facts can catalyze deeper thinking and problem solving / process approaches to learning:
FIRST SEGMENT – CONVERGENT THINKING AS IMPETUS TO DIVERGENT THINKING
  • Students are led to, or discover issues or problems that need solution. IN THIS CASE TEACHER POSES AN ESSENTIAL QUESTION SUCH AS. “THE CONSTITUTION REQUIRES THAT A PRESIDENT IS ELECTED THROUGH AN ELECTORAL COLLEGE SYSTEM THAT SOMETIMES NEGATES THE POPULAR VOTE. LET’S EXAMINE THIS PROBLEM SO THAT WE CAN CREATE A BETTER WAY TO ELECT A PRESIDENT.” Students now begin to research all aspects of the Electoral College and of the cases where a candidate who lost the popular vote won the election anyway.
  • Teacher uses specific problem-identification techniques to squeeze the problem to its core needs. TEACHER POSES VARIOUS CONVERGENT THINKING STRATEGIES TO BOIL DOWN THE ISSUES THEY ARE TRYING TO SOLVE. FOR EXAMPLE: “WHAT ARE THE PARTS OF THIS PROBLEM?” OR “CHOOSE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES THAT SEEM TO BE OF CONCERN?” Students, in groups or individually begin research and analysis to pinpoint the issues associated with the problem.
  • Students engage these techniques to narrow and refine the problem. TEACHER USES CONVERGENT STRATEGIES LIKE ABOVE AT LEAST TWICE TO ENSURE THAT STUDENTS HAVE DISTILLED THE ISSUES FOR SOLUTION. SHE INVITES STUDENTS TO VOTE ON THE PRIMARY ISSUES IN ORDER TO DIVIDE THEM INTO WORKING GROUPS IN ONE OF TWO WAYS. THE FIRST WOULD BE TO ASSIGN A SPECIFIC ISSUE TO A GROUP FOR MORE RESEARCH AND CPS OR SHE MERELY CREATES GROUPS TO TACKLE ALL THE ISSUES EN MASSE.
  • NOTE that each all of the above activities are left brain / convergent thinking strategies
The result from this segment of CPS is that the students will have sorted through trivia and facts to have boiled off the deeper themes that drive the issue in the first place.
The next post will explore Convergent Thinking that can only really take off after the students have sharpened their Divergent Thinking.