Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

New Zealand Curriculum Online navigation


Future problem solving

Views: 9310

Teacher Sarah Watts tells us about the Future Problem Solving programme; a process where students consider issues that they may face in the future and explore possible challenges and solutions. 

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

In this interview, Sarah Watts states that:

"Future problem solving helps us to really explore our minds and what we are capable of coming up with. Helps us to think outside the box and helps us to communicate our ideas in ways that we wouldn't be able to originally."

Consider this statement in your own school context. Could future problem solving be a valuable tool for you? How can you incorporate future problem solving into your learning contexts?

Want to find out more?

Future Problem Solving New Zealand
This highly regarded and well-researched international educational program develops creative, critical, and caring thinking skills in students years 1–13. Students grapple with global and community issues, identify underlying problems, and create positive solutions to those issues.


So future problem solving is a six step process that was designed in the United States about 30 years ago. Now it is a subject that’s being taught in many, many countries around the world and thousands of students participate in the subject and also compete against each other. Ultimately getting together each year in America for a sort of “battle of the brains” type of event. It is a process where we consider a scenario set in the future, hence future problem solving. We identify the problems in the future and see if we can solve them.

Well, future problem solving as a class - we’re presented a future scene with some issue that we might face in the future. And we have to look around the issues surrounding this and potential solutions and what we think that the major solution will be. This is important as it allows us to think about issues that we might face in the future before they happen so we’re able to think about the challenges that there might be in there. Solutions that there might be, so that we can already have an idea of what we’re getting into before it happens.

Each term we focus on a different issue in society whether it’s a social issue like celebrity culture and the over worship of celebrities in society - to problems such as robotics, megacities, pollution, environment. So we directly teach the future in those subjects. But it applies across a broad range of topics in the curriculum. Science teachers can bring it into any sort of scientific subject particularly if they’re thinking about the environment. And rather than scaring kids with a problem that’s too monumental to deal with, with a future focus and looking at inventions, they can think how some of these problems that we’re facing can be overcome. They can look at alternative fuels, they can look up clean-up strategies, it can also be used in things like social studies and history applying what people have learnt in the past to a future subject. Or to use it to problem solve across a range of subjects.

Future problem solving or FPS helps us to really explore our minds and what we are capable of coming up with. Helps us to think outside the box and helps us to communicate our ideas in ways that we wouldn't be able to originally.

My teaching has changed in that I guess I bring little bits of the future into other things I teach as well, so I’m not just a future problem solving teacher I also teach English, so we’re looking at writing and we’re looking at reading. Then I find the communication part of the future focus getting complex ideas across in a succinct manner and also the vocabulary that the students are exposed to really helps us and we use future examples in things to actually make the topics that we’re looking at, writing, more relevant to the students.

I think a lot of the people have trouble in English just because they can’t communicate their ideas very well and that really helps. First of all FPS helps you think outside the box and it’s like chewing gum for your mind. Secondly helps you to communicate what you want to say, easily.

What we’re looking at from an assessment point of view is different aspects of thought and different aspects of communications. What we’re looking at first is analytical thought. Students’ ability to look at a problem or a scenario and to identify potential problems. Then what they’re required to do is to think of the most serious problem they’d like to solve and then we look now then at their creative thinking. How could they solve that in a range of different futuristic ways? Then the next thing we look at really is their ability to critically analyse, so this links perfectly with Bloom’s. What they do is critically analyse what is their best solution? They come up with a series of criteria questions which they generate themselves. Then they use that to determine their best solution. Then the last is implementing. Once I’ve determined what my best solution is how can I then apply that in a practical way? If you look at that from a business model that’s what a lot of businesses are generating, a plan of action. This is how we would actually see this idea being implemented. So the students are going through all that process. One of the things I love about it and you saw in here that we had a mixture of students from year seven to year twelve (so the age ranges from 11 to about 16) is that they’re all using higher order thinking. There’s a misconception that younger levels stay at the bottom level of Bloom’s. But it’s not right. They can use all of the levels of Bloom’s. You just obviously have to pitch what you’re teaching to your audience and have a different expectation of the result when you’re marking it. The other way that we mark it is looking at their communication. How clearly they can put across succinctly, complex ideas. The boys manage that really well.    

Published on: 10 May 2013