Collaborative Problem-Solving

The skills required for problem-solving – and working together as part of a cohesive team – form an integral part of many people’s jobs and lives. Developing the skills to work through problems together is vital for children from an early age.

Collaborative problem-solving (CPS) at its simplest level, is about solving a problem together with others, applying knowledge and discussing solutions as to what will work best for a positive outcome. Helping children hone the skills to make these interactions more successful will improve personal and professional lives – now and in their future.

There are many apps that can provide a springboard to problem-solving through organising thoughts, recording interactions and communicating ideas. Also apps can open up problem-solving and collaboration between different groups of people including teachers, pupils and parents. Although technology can’t replicate collaboration, it can certainly enhance it!

Our top teaching tips for collaborative problem-solving are as follows:

  1. High Expectations – Having high expectation of pupils (generally, not just with CPS) is so important to achieving good outcomes and for children’s self-belief. If we, as teachers, give off the message that they can and will reach their goals (both personal and group ones) then they generally will – and be motivated to do so!
  1. Structure and Boundaries – It’s really important that pupils (especially when working in a group dynamic) understand what is expected of them and what time and other limitations are being imposed. It can be really motivational for pupils to have a say in these boundaries and you generally find they are much harsher on themselves in this respect than we are! If they have ‘buy in’ then they understand how and why they are carrying out a task.
  1. Allow them some Freedoms – Beyond the key boundaries, it’s important to show pupils that you trust them to organise themselves with certain keys elements of a task. It’s easy to get too involved so don’t over-manage a collaborative task (it’s easily done!).  One of the most important lessons for them is to organise themselves, even if it doesn’t always go smoothly! Learning from mistakes is a vital part of the process.
  1. Leave time for Feedback – This can sometimes be a bit of a rushed after-thought but, reflecting on what went well – or not, is a big part of the collaborative process. If pupils work in groups within a wider class setting, they can open up the collaboration through a feedback session at the end and this will enhance the lesson.
  1. Celebrate their Achievements – Whether or not a problem was ‘solved’, pupils will have achieved success along the way – and that should be celebrated. Children of all ages are really great at identifying what was good about what someone else did, so encourage them to share and celebrate each others’ success too!

Have fun with collaborative problem solving in your school!

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