Problem Solving: A Building Block for Teaching and Learning

Problem Solving Style: Relating to Your Students

One of the building blocks to a successful learning experience at CAMP ABC© is an understanding of how your students learn and solve problems. More basic to that knowledge is insight into how your “wired-in” style of creativity affects how you relate to your students.

Preferred “Style” of Creativity and Problem Solving

Knowing and understanding our preferred style of creativity and problem solving presents us with an opportunity to modify our instructional techniques. Since 1990, I have had the opportunity to take numerous “personality and learning” surveys and tests. While I found them interesting, I became more intrigued how to use the results in small groups, teams, and classroom learning. My next step was to become trained and qualified to administer four psychometric instruments over the next decade (MBTI, VIEW, FOURSIGHT, and KAI). The one measure I always resort to is the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory or as it is commonly called, the “KAI.”  Like similar measures, this is a “style” measure, not a “level” measure, such as an IQ test.  It is therefore not an intimidating measure, which is another reason I prefer this instrument.

The Basis: We all Solve Problems and We are All Creative

Very simply, a properly administered KAI assessment accurately and precisely measures your individual approach to creativity and problem solving.  Dr. Kirton’s theory includes a fundamental precept that ALL people are creative and ALL people can solve problems.  Where you measure on the scale indicates your “style” or pre-disposed preference to creativity or problem solving. Given a problem or challenge, how do you prefer to deal with novelty, boundaries, structure and authority?

Your Preferred Style Dealing with Change: Evolution or Revolution?

Change is everywhere, of course. To understand the KAI, think of two perspectives: 1) Adaptive Change or Evolution and, 2) Innovative Change or Revolution. You may be on either end of this continuum, but more likely somewhere in between. The benefit of the KAI is where you are in relation to others in your family, your community and your work. Here is a brief description of each.

1) Those with a more Adaptive style: ◾Like doing things better ◾Find benefits and support in structure ◾Accept the problem definition ◾Work within the stated rules and regulations ◾Emphasize improvement and usefulness ◾Are seen as precise, thorough, dependable

2) Those with a more Innovative style: ◾Do things differently ◾ View structure as limiting and confining ◾Challenge the problem definition ◾Challenge authority, “bend” the rules ◾Emphasize originality and uniqueness ◾Are seen as ingenious and unconventional

Apply the Insight: Teaching and Learning

Given the nature of your job and your various life roles, how do you interact with co-workers, teams, groups?  How are the interactions with your spouse, partner, children and relatives? What about the relationship with your subordinates or supervisors? What about the changes you are facing at work? And, if you are reading this as a teacher, instructor or facilitator, how does the theory help explain what might be going on with those “challenging” students?

Your Students and Your Teachers

It  works both ways. Those “challenging” students might just have a preferred “style” different than yours!  The more Adaptive students capitalize on existing definitions and likely solutions to problems by stretching existing “givens” into creative ways. They are excellent at evaluation in great depth and detail. The more Innovative students tend to redefine problems and are concerned with doing things differently. They have less expected, and sometimes less accepted solutions to problems. Because of your “wired-in” style, your built-in subconscious bias may be hindering your effectiveness in reaching some students. As teachers, instructors and facilitators we need to understand and recognize differences to make contributions. The differences are in “style” only.

Both are Needed

Successful learning, problem solving and creativity requires diversity of thought and approaches. Managing that diversity is a key element to successful learning. Take a critical look at your instructional techniques, your stock answers, your biases, your favorite students, and your challenging students.

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