by Elizabeth Heubeck
Workers inherently know that problem-solving skills are critical for their success on the job. But rapid advances in technology, shifting economic challenges, and evolving knowledge about how people learn are adding new ideas and perspectives about where and how problem-solving skills are or should be acquired.
A quick review of K-12 curriculum trends throughout the last century reveals that problem-solving has periodically risen to the forefront of educational strategies. In 1896, the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School introduced the concept of “learning through doing,” in which students were presented with real-world situations to solve. The launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik spacecraft in 1957 ignited concerns among U.S. leaders that the nation’s education system was inferior to that of the USSR, as Russia was then known. Subsequently, there was a renewed push in the United States to adopt curricula emphasizing inquiry-based thinking.
Fast forward to the present, where a recent nationwide survey by Adobe, “Creative Problem Solving: Essential Skills Today’s Students Need for Jobs in Tomorrow’s Age of Automation,” found most U.S. educators and policymakers believe students should learn “creative problem solving” in school, but generally don’t.
To understand what business leaders are looking for when today’s students become their workers, Education Week tapped senior executives from a collection of U.S. companies to answer these two questions: What problem-solving skills do you want to see from early-career job seekers that tend to be lacking? And what should K-12 schools do to help bridge those skill gaps?
Here’s what they told us in their words (edited for brevity and clarity)…
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