Defining Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

I recently had a conversation with a pre-service teacher. It’s was a conversation that I’ve had many times before with teacher-librarians, classroom teachers, friends, and colleagues over the years. It goes something like this:

Person A: Wow, we really need to focus on critical thinking and problem solving skills with our students.

Person B: Yeah, we really do! But how do we do that?

Person A: Good question. I know it’s important--it’s in our standards and I hear about it and read about how the “jobs of tomorrow” depend on these skills. I’m just not sure what these skills are.

Person B: I’ve heard that, too. My friend has a business and can’t seem to find employees who can think on their feet. He talks about that all of the time--if only schools could teach students how to think!

The conversation should hopefully never end without problem-solving the solution. In order for these skills to be intentionally taught, teachers and learners need to have an operating definition to effectively plan instruction, assess progress, and report on how well students are mastering the skills that are absolutely essential for future success. The Super 3 and Big 3 ARE the definition of problem-solving and critical thinking.