Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned Vol. II
Reaching the Gifted Student Via
the Regular Classroom
by Patricia S. Caldwell
University of Alaska Fairbanks
One of the greatest challenges facing education
today is to effectively provide an opportunity for every child to
learn at his/her own pace and to develop his/her potential to the
fullest. Far too frequently the gifted and talented students pass
through the educational system without achieving their intellectual
and creative potential. Education must take note of the vital roles
gifted students may play in our society and provide the educational
experiences necessary to successfully fulfill these roles for the
betterment of all.
A basic premise of gifted education is that the
gifted student needs a differentiated program in order to develop
his/her full potential. Ideally, provisions should be made so that
the student has an opportunity to interact with peers of comparable
abilities as well as time to function independently as an individual.
It is also considered important that the gifted student be a member
of a regular classroom group composed to students with a broad
spectrum of learning abilities.
For many gifted students, specific programs are
structured to incorporate each of these basic elements. The student
spends a portion of his/her school time with other gifted students,
usually in a pull-out program, and the remainder of the time is spent
within a regular classroom. Depending on the philosophy of the school
system, the curriculum may be either for enrichment purposes or for
The curriculum for gifted students is designed
to incorporate both group and individual-centered strategies.
Creative approaches permeate all areas of the curriculum as
stimulants to nurture imaginative thinking. Because the majority of
gifted students are intensely curious, programs usually strive to see
that students have the necessary skills to explore a wide range of
topics to the degree their needs or interests allow. Utilizing the
independent research method, students develop organizational and
research skills and learn to critically analyze, synthesize, and
Values-building strategies figure prominently
in many areas of the gifted curriculum as an attempt to help gifted
students face problems, and to build personal value systems in order
to better understand themselves and others. It does not strive to
instill any particular set of values. Instead, the student develops
an awareness of the beliefs and behaviors that s/he prizes and would
be willing to stand up for both in and out of the classroom.
Methods and strategies used within most gifted
programs emphasize the belief that the gifted students must be active
participants in their own learning. The teacher is trained to
function as a facilitator, guide, moderator and confidant.
Furthermore, such programs encourage the acquisition and development
of processes and skills that students can use in their life-long
pursuit of knowledge.
For fifteen years, I was actively involved in
gifted education serving as a teacher/facilitator, supervisor and
trainer of teachers, and as a program coordinator. One of the tasks I
undertook during this time was to gather the data necessary to
validate a large urban gifted program for the state of Tennessee.
(Creative Learning in a Unique Environment, Memphis City Schools,
Memphis, Tennessee.) An analysis of the data indicated the most
important attributes of a successful program were the teacher and the
teaching strategies employed to teach higher-level thinking
In analyzing the type of teacher needed, it was
obvious that an authoritative dispenser of knowledge would not be
able to meet the many cognitive demands made by the gifted students.
Instead, a person who has an understanding of the developmental
stages of children will more likely be able to provide meaningful
experiences that will help them develop to their fullest potential,
both cognitively and effectively.
Highly intelligent children have indicated that
teachers who work with them should have many of the following
characteristics: sense of humor, flexibility, patience and warmth,
consistent behavior, personal magnetism, cooperative and democratic
attitude, sensitivity to others, curiosity and desire for additional
knowledge, wide interests, and knowledge in several fields. The
teacher should be able to accept the non-conforming ideas that
characterize exceptional intellectual ability. The instructor who is
threatened by a sense of inferiority and feels a sense of competition
with these bright learners will not do well in gifted
Statements have often been made that many
students cannot think for themselves, and that they are incapable of
comprehending and analyzing ideas, concepts and situations. The
secondary teachers blame the elementary teachers, and the elementary
teachers either blame the teachers of the prior grade, or rationalize
by saying that the caliber of students they are getting are inferior.
This circular road has been traveled many times before. Mere rhetoric
or the "passing of the buck" approach does not provide a solution to
the problem of underdeveloped thinking skills. One logical approach
to this problem is to teach for thinking. This may require a
refocusing of our teaching to deal with the development of learning
experiences which will force the students to think. To achieve this
end, the curriculum should be geared to activities involving the
students in experiences such as: interpreting data, summarizing
information, stimulating the imagination, decision-making,
problem-solving, making discoveries, formulating hypotheses,
analyzing propaganda techniques and developing logical
With the preceding background, I enrolled in
the Rural Alaska Instructional Improvement Academy and selected two
workshops which appeared to most aptly address the issue of teaching
strategies for use with gifted students. Although neither the "Enhancing Motivation, Thinking and Achievement through Teaching
Strategies" workshop, nor the "Hands-on Experiential Science" workshop were offered
as a workshop specifically for gifted education, the information presented was
quite appropriate. At one
time, critics of gifted education excused the need for special
programs by saying that what was good for the gifted was good for
everybody. It is encouraging to see that many of the same teaching
strategies are now being employed with all students.
During the course of the week, I became much
more aware of the necessity for the "regular" classroom teacher in
Rural Alaska to also be well versed in gifted education. Each school,
regardless of its remoteness, includes the potential for one or many
gifted students. Logistics and funding do not provide for such
luxuries as daily contact with a "teacher of the gifted" for every
Cultural diversity can also function as a
barrier to meeting the needs of the intellectually gifted and
talented student. While I worked with the Memphis City Schools it
became evident that many Black students were not being identified for
gifted services because the criteria being utilized were oriented to
the white, middle-class population. In order to rectify this
exclusion, I developed a program to train regular classroom teachers
in grades 4 through 9 to conduct gifted seminars within their own
buildings. Students were identified through a multi-faceted process
and included both peer and teacher nominations.
Preparing Teachers for Gifted
Students in Their Classroom
Because of my interest in gifted education and
because I repeatedly see the regular classroom teacher as the person
who spends the most time with the gifted student, I have chosen to
address teacher preparedness for teaching gifted students within the
regular classroom. The specific areas of preparation should include
1. Characteristics and needs of the
gifted, including identification processes for both majority and
2. Methods and strategies
a. group dynamics
c. group research
d. individual research
e. critical thinking
f. effective domain development
g. leadership development
3. Curriculum and materials
4. Methods of counseling the gifted
5. Educational theories in gifted
The preparation should require participatory
involvement, as it models the desired behavior of the students and
teachers. The workshops that I attended were excellent examples of
learning through participation.
Once the teacher is prepared to work with the
specific needs of the gifted population, adjustments can be made in
the classroom teaching methodology. Of particular concern are the
methods and strategies to encourage critical thinking, so following
are some techniques intended for that purpose. These techniques may
be used within the regular classroom with special emphasis placed
upon motivating each child to perform at or above his/her expected
level. In an age where knowledge far exceeds the ability of the
individual to keep abreast of it, much less to retain it, we as
educators must place a new premium on the ability to process
information and extract ideas from it, rather than simply store it.
"Axe Handle Academy," with a strong
emphasis upon preparation for an unknown future, outlines a kind of
education designed to produce students capable of confidently
participating in a global society.
Our school objectives often include the need to
teach students to think critically and yet, we rarely provide the
opportunity for them to do so. Since we all learn differently, and
even as individuals use different strategies in the development of
different concepts, we need to use many strategies in teaching
students to think.
Brainstorming is a technique that
provides the opportunity for generating ideas. Classical
brainstorming as a group method for problem solving was first
introduced by Alex Osborn in the 1930's. His concept of ways to
enhance creative thought consisted of four basic rules:
1. Criticism is ruled out
2. Free-wheeling is welcomed
3. Quantity is wanted
4. Combining and improving are sought
There are many variations of brainstorming that
are very usable in the classroom. One example is "Brainwriting,"
which relies upon the silent production of ideas on paper by group
members. An extension of this is to form a "Brainwriting Pool," where
members list four ideas on paper and then exchange with other members
of the group and continue to add ideas.
Pam Robbins demonstrated a form of
brainstorming during her workshop presentation in the Academy. She
referred to it as "Carousel Brainstorming." Questions were written on
poster paper and taped to the walls. Small groups generated ideas for
each question during a specified time and then moved to the next. At
the conclusion, groups studied the compiled lists.
"Mind Mapping" is another approach to
brainstorming. A problem is written on the center portion of a piece
of paper. Use webbing strategies to branch out from the problem with
lines, arrows, and words within spheres. In the article written by
Corwin, et.al., the curriculum web developed around a spider
illustrates the unforeseen results and productive outcomes of such an
activity. This is particularly helpful to the visual learner, since
viewing ideas in both a semantic and figural sense can extend and
stimulate associations. By using different colored markers on the
webbing, classification or categorization of concepts is
Methods of brainstorming should vary because of
the differences in modes of thinking and perceiving. They can be
applied in any classroom and across any learning discipline. It is
just as important to address a past problem as it is to address
contemporary problems. Arthur B. VanGundy's book Techniques of
Structured Problem Solvin2 (1981) and Idea Power: Time Tested
Methods to Stimulate Your Imagination, by Morris 0. Edwards
(1986) are sources of additional variations.
Problem statements should be structured to
begin with, "In what ways might we (or I).....," or "How might we (or
I).....?" Some examples to use within the classroom could be:
- How might we celebrate Valentine's Day (or
some other holiday)?
- In what ways might we measure the size of
our school building?
- In what ways might we come to school each
- In what ways might we generate money for a
class field trip?
- In what ways might we communicate with a
class in another village?
- How might we learn the states and their
- How might we generate light without
- Our principal received ten cases of
clothes-hangers by mistake. How might we use them?
- Suppose the population of bears increased
by one hundredfold. How might this affect life in
- In what ways might we describe the Northern
Lights to someone from another planet?
- In what ways might the author of a
particular story have changed the story to provide a different
Because brainstorming can be utilized as a
means of cooperative learning, each child, regardless of his/her
ability level can participate. Ideas can be judged according to
student-determined criteria as a follow-up activity. The gifted
student may choose to implement the idea either independently or with
Logic is also an excellent means of
teaching thinking skills. Through logic, students learn to recognize
valid inferences and to avoid making hasty generalizations and
thinking in stereotypes. This can be introduced to the very youngest
through symbolic logic and later through sentence logic.
Often students are presented with material both
in school and out that, if not handled logically, can present
problems. If a student is too quick in forming an opinion, s/he can
reach an invalid and illogical conclusion. On the other hand, if the
student carefully eliminates fact from innuendo, then we might say
that s/he has reached some maturity in his/her thinking process.
Other parallels might be made in areas such as math, essay writing,
objective tests, classroom discussions and science. In each of these
areas the student can be confronted with a problem for which s/he
must seek a solution, and then makes hypotheses which must be tested
and retested, and if proven wrong, eliminated. Thus, through the
process of elimination, s/he is able to arrive at a logical
Sources for ideas include scores of books, many
of which are inexpensive paperbacks. Once the format for logical
thinking is established, the gifted child can create original
problems. They can often be based on a current topic of study such as
geographical locations, careers, science topics, etc..
Hypothesizing requires the application
of previous knowledge to a new situation in attempting to arrive at
logical conclusions. Reasoning skills are developed as the student
analyzes the problem, arrives at many possible solutions and through
the process of elimination arrives at an acceptable conclusion.
Consider such questions as: Why is the water in the ocean salty? Why
doesn't an igloo melt inside? Why do we walk in circles when we are
The preceding are ordinary questions which we
all take for granted. However, they can serve a very useful purpose
if innovation is used. Questions such as those listed not only can
serve as a means for getting students to think through forming
hypotheses, but will often lead to the development of an interest in
the subject being hypothesized, resulting in more in-depth research.
Dr. Rockcastle's "Hands-on Experiential Science" workshop in the
Academy effectively demonstrated the application of hypothesizing
with students across the curriculum. The hypothesizing strategy
should not be relegated solely to the study of science, nor should it
be reserved for the secondary schools.
The following example is another type problem
which can be used to develop hypothesizing. It allows the students to
consider many alternatives, as there is not one correct answer. Any
answer which is logical can be accepted.
A bird fell into a 30" deep hole in the cement
block of a building under construction. The hole was only 4" by 1
1/2" and the workmen were stumped as to how to rescue the robin. A
ten year old boy walking by came up with a simple solution. How did
he do it?
Experience in hypothesizing can also be
provided with concrete materials. Students can form hypotheses
concerning the use of an unfamiliar object or an artifact from
prehistoric times. If the object is a familiar one it can be
concealed in a box. Students ask questions in order to eliminate
erroneous conclusions until the item is identified. Variations can
include, "Who Am I?" or "What Am I?" where the name of the person or
object is taped to the back of a student.
Lateral Thinking activities
employ the strategy requiring one to go beyond the ordinary and to
break down self-imposed bafflers. Edward de Bono in his book,
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (1973),
presents the rationale for providing students practice in overcoming
structured thinking. For example, "What is the center of gravity?"
Most of the answers will probably be science-oriented, but the
solution here is the letter "v." The majority of students restrict
their own thinking - they limit themselves without exploring all
possibilities in seeking a solution.
Another example is to ask the students to name
the ten states whose names can be spelled with four letters. No
abbreviations are acceptable. Utah, Ohio, and Iowa easily adhere to
the requirements. By removing one's "blinders" the following seven
states can be added: Alaska, Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas,
Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Synectics is a technique created by
William J.J. Gordon in which innovative solutions to problems are
sought through reversing things. Because most classrooms contain
students who learn at different rates, teachers need ways to educate
all levels of learners without boring the gifted students and without
overwhelming the slower students. The basic tools of learning are
analogies which serve as connectors between the new and the familiar.
These enable students to connect facts from their experiences with
the facts to be learned. These skills can be applied to a wide range
of learning abilities and thus enhance creative fluency as well as
In developing this model, Gordon made the
following assumptions: 1) Creativity is not a mysterious process. The
steps can be identified and taught; 2) Creativity is necessary to
many tasks and fields, including science, writing, the arts, learning
and everyday life; and 3) group work and cooperation advances the
acquisition and use of creative skills.
Analogies may open windows of new
understandings, glimpses of different relationships and the extension
of creative thought. Examples of direct analogies might include:
Which has more stretch - forgetfulness or helplessness? Which is more
lasting - lost
or found? Why? Which is louder - sunrise or sunset? Why? Students can
be asked to look for visual analogies from paintings or for
conceptual analogies within a given subject area, or to listen for
analogies in musical compositions.
Symbolic analogies or oxymorons are
combinations of two incongruous terms like "mournful optimist" or
"controlled excitement." They are extremely useful in setting the
general parameters for creative writing. Consider, as a beginning
step for written narratives, a class generating or brainstorming a
list of direct analogies. The resulting list can be used to establish
the conflict that requires resolution in a story.
Metaphorical thinking is the ability to take a
concept into different or new contextual settings for the purpose of
gaining unique understandings. Variations include questions such as
the following: What might my shoes say to me, if they could give me a
message? In what ways am I like a tree in a forest of trees? In what
ways is a seashell like a galaxy?
Creative Problem Solving is a complex
process requiring many skills. The problem solver must be able to
sense and to identify a problem, and to formulate it in workable
terms. S/he must be able to grasp the essential elements of the
problem, to separate the relevant from the irrelevant, to detect gaps
and to determine what future information may be needed. Above all
else s/he must be able to generate many ideas, and ideas that are
uncommon and original. The ideas must be effectively adaptive to the
demands of the particular creative task.
One of the most basic skills that can be taught
in today's schools is problem solving, especially skills in solving
future problems. In fact, the teaching of future problem solving
skills may be the key to the successful teaching of the other basics,
such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Many children are not
motivated to master these basics unless they can see the connection
between them and their future lives.
The creative problem solving process lends
itself very well to a project-centered, community-based approach to
education. The community can serve as the learning laboratory for the
origin of problems to be solved. Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes
conduct an extensive training institute each summer at the State
University of New York in Buffalo where educators and business people
from the United States and Canada come together to develop skills in
problem solving. The institutes that I attended were invaluable as
they illustrated the enormous diversity of real life situations and
problems existing and the potential for integration into the
educational curriculum of schools.
Paul E. Torrance, now retired from the
University of Georgia, was a forerunner in the field of creativity.
He founded the "Future Problem Solving Bowl" in 1976, which continues
to involve student teams annually in problem solving competition.
Students from Alaska have been winners in the national competition
for several recent years. Torrance identifies the following phases
for the future problem solving process:
1. Understanding the problem
2. Identifying and stating the underlying
3. Producing alternative solutions
4. Developing criteria for judging
5. Evaluating alternative solutions
6. Planning implementation of
7. Selling the solution
An overview of the Osborn-Parnes method of
Creative Problem Solving can be found in Creative
Problem Solving: The Basic
Course (Isaksen and Treffinger, 1985). In teaching the skills
of creative problem solving in classrooms, CPS for Kids
and Be a Problem Solver (Eberle and
Stanish, 1980 and 1984) provide ideas and suggestions for the
The information presented in the preceding
pages represents only a minuscule number of the ways in which the
gifted child, as well as all members of a student population, can be
provided daily encounters in thinking. Each strategy is easily
adapted to meet the specific needs of both the individual students
and the curriculum areas. Because there is some overlapping of ideas,
combinations of strategies should also be considered. Regardless of
the idea implemented, the cultural diversity of the classroom and the
community must serve as the determining factors.
Since the classroom teacher is the person with
whom the gifted student spends the majority of his/her time, the
student's needs are more often addressed in this setting. If the
teacher is aware of and attuned to the characteristics of the gifted
learner, then the child is more apt to be challenged. By providing
opportunities for all students to excel and to learn from one
another, education is improved.
Sample Lessons for Gifted
The New Teachers: A lesson in the application
On the first day of the fall term at Malemute
High school there were four teachers. Each teaches a different
subject and each came from a different place, either Nome, Barrow,
Sitka or Kenai. What subject does each teacher teach and where did
each live before?
1. Mr. Arnold did not come from Sitka
2. The social studies teacher came from
3. Mr. Bell does not teach algebra or
4. The English teacher did not come from
Nome or Kenai.
5. Mrs. Clay does not teach science.
6. Neither Mrs. Dunn or Mr. Arnold came from
- "Why Doesn't An Igloo Melt Inside?" An
exercise in hypothesizing adopted from: The Question
and Answer Book of Everyday Science by Ruth A. Sonneborn
(Random House, 1961).
1. Put students into groups of 3-4 or
2. Explain to the students that each group
will get a slip of paper with the same question on it.
3. Give the students a question such as "Why
Doesn't An Igloo Melt Inside?"
4. Ask the group to select one person to
record the answers.
5. Allow a five minute period for each group
to think of as many hypotheses as possible to explain the question
6. Give the group with the most answers ten
points at the end of the first time period. In case of ties, each
group will receive ten points. No duplications are allowed, i.e.,
the same answer cannot be reworded.
7. Give each group 5 to 6 minutes to review
their hypotheses in order to add to the list.
8. Add five points to the group with the
most answers at the end of the second time period.
9. Redefine the task. Each group is asked to
pick from their list the hypothesis they think most closely
approximates the correct answer. Ten to twelve minutes should be
allotted for this portion of the lesson. Each group will have to
decide, as a group, what their answer will be.
10. Allow each group to read its final
11. Allow other groups to challenge or ask
12. Give each group the opportunity to
discuss the hypotheses presented and choose the one they think the
most plausible. The recorder writes down the group's
13. Read the correct answer, or allow the
groups to do research to find the correct answer.
14. Award the group(s) that chose the
hypotheses that were most nearly correct ten points.
15. Give the group(s) that have correct
responses 20 points.
16. Discuss the reasons for the correct
Answer to the question: Even though
other types of houses have replaced the igloo among groups of
Canadian Eskimos who did at one time build igloos, they occasionally
construct the igloo for special occasions or as an emergency shelter
while on a journey. It is quickly built, and it defies any kind of
First a trench is cut about five feet long and
20 inches deep in a newly made snowdrift. Then, from the face of the
trench, blocks are cut with a knife. These are shaped so that they
lean inward when set on edge.
A circle of these snow blocks is laid and then
shaved down so that as the person builds there will be a narrowing
spiral. The material is cut from the inside of the house as the man
works. Then a keystone, with edges wider above than below, is dropped
into the space at the top. All the cracks are then filled with soft
snow. A small igloo can be built in this way in a couple of
When the house has been built, the woman
usually takes over. She may light her seal oil lamp or other heat
source and make it burn as hot as possible. Then she closes the door
with a block of ice and makes everything airtight. Now the snow
begins to melt. Because the dome's roof is curved, it doesn't drip.
Instead, it soaks gradually into the blocks so that they are nearly
When the blocks are sufficiently wet, she puts
out her lamp and opens the door. The intensely cold air rushes in,
and in a few minutes, the house is transformed from a fragile
building of snow to a dome of ice. It is now so strong that a polar
bear can crawl over the roof without breaking it. And because it is
so solid and hard, it doesn't melt and provides a snug
Of course, when the winter ends and the
temperature rises, the igloo does begin to melt, and it is usually
the roof which caves in first.
Other suggestions: This question could serve as
a catalyst for a variety of studies such as a the reasons different
building materials and different styles of housing are used in
different environments. A class could discuss the influence of
technology upon housing. An experiential activity in the North, would
be to actually construct an igloo.
- "What if People Lived as Long as Trees?" A
lesson in creative problem solving adopted from:
Encounters with the
Future: Forecast of Life in
the 21st Century, by Catron and O'Toole
Doctors like to say that 99 percent of all
discoveries in the history of medical science have been made in the
20th Century, a claim that is probably true. Run down a list of
diseases cured in the 20th Century and you have an index to illnesses
that routinely devastated the human race - yellow fever, scurvy,
diphtheria, polio, tuberculosis, smallpox, etc.
In 1940, infection caused 25 percent of all
deaths. Today, because of penicillin, it's less than three percent.
Another point: the human life span was 48 years at the start of the
20th Century. Today it's more than 72 years.
The fast pace will be stepped up so rapidly
that children born today can expect to live an average of 83 years,
10 years more than their parents, 20 years more than their
grandparents and 30 years more than their great-grandparents.
There will be new drugs that lessen the need
for radical surgery, and artificial body parts that prolong life
itself. People will not only live longer, they will be able to enjoy
their old age. There will be drugs that improve and even restore
memory. Non-addictive painkillers stronger than morphine will
Medical chemists are already experimenting with
drugs that will dissolve blood clots, treat asthma, reduce high blood
pressure, cure blindness, do away with fears and phobias, splice
genes, etc., and the first true diet pill may be on its way.
These breakthroughs will enable medical
researchers to crack the code that determines how the human body
ages. Then a drug will be devised to slow down the aging process. The
first anti-aging drug may raise life spans to 150 years; improvements
on the first drug will lift life spans to 200 years. That's as long a
life as trees have on earth. WHAT IF PEOPLE LIVED AS LONG AS
Nobody knows what this anti-aging drug will be
or when it will become available, only that it is on its way. Already
a cadre of precursor drugs are being tested on animals, so it's only
a matter of time before the right drug pops out of the test tube.
With such a life-extending drug available, four generations of
families will be living at the same time.
Given the problem outlined above, students can
be organized into problem solving teams and asked to tackle the issue
using the phases of creative problem solving as defined by Torrance
in the Handbook for Training Future Problem Solving Teams
Discuss the situation with the all the students
first and try to pinpoint facts and questions. Students should look
up any unfamiliar words, obtain facts from references, etc.. Fantasy,
wild ideas, irrelevant and trivial ideas should be relegated to the "back burner." The
questions to be explored to clarify the situation should include Who? What? When?
Where? How? and Why? Before tackling
the situation, research should be encouraged to acquire greater
knowledge. Be sure to differentiate between fact and opinion.
Record on the board verbal information
contributed by the students. Students can decide if a statement is
fact or opinion or whether they need to explore further. Divide the
students into groups of four and, using the facts presented have the
groups brainstorm for problems this situation would produce. Be sure
rules for brainstorming are followed. Allow approximately ten minutes
for this. The teacher may need to prod groups by suggesting areas of
problem finding - recreation, schools, businesses, energy, food,
Identifying and Stating the
Ask the students to look for the "real" problem
the one that, if solved, would clear up many of the other smaller
problems listed. Encourage them to discuss the many sub-problems that
have surfaced in order to agree on one basic problem.
Once the problem has been identified, it should
be stated for creative attack. "In what ways might we...?," or "How
might we...?" Avoid using "can," as this limits the possibilities.
Allow them to experiment with several different ways of stating the
problem. For example: "In what ways might we conserve energy
resources?" is different from "In what ways might we increase our
energy resources?" Do not shortchange this step.
Have the students brainstorm for solutions to
the "real" problem. When a team appears stuck, try the SCAMPER
questions. Could something be:
S - substituted
C - combined
A - added, adapted
R - reversed, rearranged
M - magnified, minified,
P - put to other uses
E - eliminated, divided
If a group stays with one type of idea too
long, you might ask a question leading to another idea. Groups may
also become fixated with a humorous idea that disrupts production.
Listen and determine if there is a practical side to the joke that
you can pick up and elaborate.
Developing Criteria for Judging
Each group should decide upon the ten best
solutions from their list. This permits them to develop criteria
suitable to the solutions chosen. Have the students work together to
determine the criteria (or yardsticks) for judging the solutions.
These criteria may include factors such as: safety, equipment need,
time involved, energy required, cost, etc.. When using cost, urge
students to place it at least third. The criteria need to be both
applicable and relevant to the specific problem. There are three
characteristics of a good criterion:
- Single dimension - "Which solution is the
most practical and feasible?" These two criteria should be
- Measure of degree - Instead of "Is it too
costly?" ask "Which solution would be the less
- Indicates a desirable direction - Single
terms like "time required" and "side effects" do not give
direction. More effective would be "Which solution would be the
quickest to implement?" or "Which solution would have the fewest
adverse side effects?"
A team should select at least three criteria.
Five are considered optimal in most cases. They are easier to work
with if they all are either negative or positive. (Poorest or best,
smallest or largest.) The ten best alternative solutions should be
listed on the left side of a grid and the criteria across the
Once the criteria have been selected, each
group should then discuss and decide what they consider to be their
ten best solutions from their list of brainstormed solutions. These
ten solutions should be listed on the left side of a grid.
The team discusses and together determines the
value of each solution relative to all other solutions according to
the first criterion. The solution which the group deems to be the
most effective receives a one (1). It is sometimes easier to
determine the most effective solution, then the least effective, then
the second most effective, then the second least effective, and so
While it might be faster to have individual
team members rank order the solutions and average the results, to do
so would negate two of the purposes of the program, those of
developing communication and team work skills. The exchange of ideas
and the defense of views are also invaluable properties of the
problem solving process.
Starting with the first criterion in the first
column, all the alternative solutions are assigned a rank order.
After the first column is completed, then the second criterion is
applied and so on. Therefore, moving from left to right, each
criterion is applied to every idea; the group should never go across
the grid evaluating one alternative solution, and then the
At some point a group is sure to say that they
cannot rank one alternative solution above or below another. The
evaluation process is an exercise in discrimination, so often a group
must do some digging to determine the better of two ideas. Encourage
them to seek this discriminatory state. If they still find the choice
difficult, ask them to examine their criteria or the wording of the
specific criterion to see if they have written a clear criterion.
Perhaps they need to work on a better criterion. If the problem still
persists, then average the numbers and give the same rank to each.
For example, if the group feels that two ideas are the same and they
cannot assign them ranks 3 and 4, they can assign them both ranks of
Once each criterion has been applied, the
numbers are added up across the grid to give one total number to each
alternative solution being judged. The solution or solutions scoring
highest have been judged the best according to the criteria and the
group's assignment of that criteria. The chosen solution should be
Now you have selected by evaluation the best
idea or ideas for a solution. If it is possible to combine two or
more solutions, do so at this time. Examine the relevance of this
solution to the original problem. If the solution does not respond to
the problem statement, steps three to five of the process should be
Planning Implementation of
Solution (Partial Planning Only)
Have the groups brainstorm for the different
things that might be done to carry out their solution.
Allow ten minutes. With each idea ask three
questions and mark each accordingly.
1. Is this idea an acceptable
one? Mark A
2. Is this idea a realistic one for
your group? Mark R
3. Is this idea a practical one which shows
a vision of the future? Mark F
When groups have ten or more ARF solutions,
they are ready to place the ideas in one of ten listed
1. Teaching people something
2. Obtaining funding.
3. Attracting people to work on the
4. Developing procedures or processes to
help consumers to begin to use the service.
5. Finding a building or location to house
6. Gaining support of powerful people to
support the idea.
7. Informing the general public about the
8. Building (or developing) procedures,
methods, or courses by which services will be rendered.
9. Distributing and updating information to
all persons involved.
10. Establishing policies which guide
implementation, changes, or alterations.
Have each group decide upon the category for
which they will prepare a "selling plan." (In real life, they will
have to devise plans for all categories.) Students are now ready to
develop criteria for evaluating their selling plan. Look at all the
ARF ideas and ask what bases exist for judging them. What are the
important ways in which they differ? The grid is used again in the
same way as before. If cost figures in, put it third. The group
should be encouraged to consider the people, community, state,
national, and international impacts. If more than one plan ranks
high, consider a combination of the high ranking ones to form an even
Selling the Plan
Now that the best plan has been selected, it
must be further developed. Each group is to examine the ways by which
their plan might be implemented in order to best gain acceptance from
everyone concerned. How might any objections be overcome? Answer the
Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions.
Have the students design their persuasive
presentations to appeal to the general public, since in our
democratic form of government and capitalistic form of economy, it is
the general public who wield the power. Give each group a five minute
block of time to persuade other students that their solution is a
good one. This presentation may range from a humorous skit to a
serious speech. You may wish to judge the presentation according to
the following criteria:
1. Concept of Presentation
a. Relationship to solution
(possible 7 points)
b. Cleverness and originality (possible 7
2. Delivery of Presentation
a. Creative use of space (possible
b. Projection of ideas (possible 7
c. Involvement of team members (possible
3. Overall Persuasiveness of Presentation (7
points) Total possible - 42 points.
References and Additional
de Bono, Edward. Lateral Thinking:
Creativity Step by Step. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
Eberle, Bob. Scamper: Games for
Imagination Development. Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers,
Eberle, Bob, and Stanish, Bob. CPS for Kids:
A Resource Book for Teaching Creative Problem Solving to
Children. Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers, Inc.,
Edwards, Morris 0. Idea Power: Time
Tested Methods to Stimulate Your
Imagination. Buffalo, New York: Bearly Limited, 1986.
Gallagher, James, J. Teaching the
Gifted Child. Boston, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon,
Inc., 1975. Gordon, W.J.J., and Poze, Tony. Strange and
Familiar. Cambridge, Massachusetts: SES Associates,
Gordon, W.J.J. Svnectics. New York:
Harper & Row, 1961.
Gowan, John C., and Torrance, E. Paul.
Educating the Ablest. Itaska, Illinois: F.E. Peacock
Publishers, Inc., 1971.
Guilford, J.P. Way Beyond the 1.0.
Buffalo, New York: The Creative Education Foundation, 1977. Isaksen,
Scott G., and Treffinger, Donald J. Creative Problem-Solving: The
Basic Course. Buffalo, New York: Bearly
Torrance, E. Paul. Guiding Creative
Talent. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
VanGundy, Arthur B, Jr. Techniques of
Structured Problem Solving. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
Williams, Frank E. Classroom Ideas for
Encouraging Thinking and Feeling. Buffalo, New York:
D.O.K. Publishers, Inc., 1970.
Part I *
Rural School Ideals
Goodness, People Come and Go So Quickly Around
Lance C. Blackwood
in a Cross-Cultural Environment
Administrators for Rural Alaska
The Mentor Teacher
Ideal Curriculum and
Teaching Approaches for a School in Rural
Concerning Excellent Rural Alaskan Schools
The Ideal Rural
Alaska Village School
From Then To Now:
The Value of Experiential Learning
Clara Carol Potterville
Toward an Integrated,
Nonlinear, Community-Oriented Curriculum
A Letter from
Rural Students for the Future
Approaches to the High School Curriculum
Mark J. Zintek
Part II *
Rural Curriculum Ideas
On Punks and
Louise J. Britton
Literature to Meet
the Needs of Rural Students
Reaching the Gifted
Student Via the Regular Classroom
Patricia S. Caldwell
Early Childhood Special
Education in Rural Alaska
Through the School Newspaper
History: A Unit in Cultural Education
at You and Whole Language
Inside, Outside and
all-Around: Learning to Read and Write
Mary L. Olsen
Here's Looking at
You 2000 Workshop
Christmas: A Language Arts Unit
Christine Pearsall Villano
Michael A. Wilson
Curriculum Integration in the Community