by Dr. Murthy Cheruvu
This year for the first time we offered a Creative Problem Solving course. The course is designed to help students to use a systematic but creative approach, Theory of Constraints, to finding win-win solutions for problematic situations. This model also helps students identify the underlying issues in a problem, redirect their actions, and meet challenges. The goal is to arrive at a solution that works well for both parties to a conflict and plan the needed actions.
The course lends itself well to a classroom setting because when students look at the storylines of real problems together, they can interact with each other and help each other to implement the systematic processes. But due to the COVID lockdown in 2020—2021 students were obliged to take this course using a correspondence format. Thus, students had to grasp the tools and the terminology on their own from the syllabus and an in-depth textbook rather than in the helpful group setting. A student in his first assignment remarked, “It feels as if we have been placed on this extraordinarily luxurious cruise ship, but without a clue as to how make it run.”
Nonetheless, despite some bumps, and with full engagement on the part of both students and instructor, students found the class productive even in this format. As their final project, students worked on community issues like phone usage, trauma and violence in the facility and increasing educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals. As one student put it on the final evaluation, “Yes, I am glad I learned this systematic approach. I’ll be taking it with me into society. I’ll even teach everyone I know about it…I use this approach in my day-to-day activities and it is working out great.” Another confirmed, “It delivers a REAL tool that prisoners can use for help our future circumstances…It has sharpened my ability to think critically.”
Another student summed up his learning this way, “I learned how to evaluate the situation from a logical perspective and consider the matter unemotionally. I learned to be able to conclude a matter in a way that would validate everyone.” And a fourth student affirmed that “The analysis tool I learned taught me to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
We all (Rising Hope students and teacher) found out that when it comes to education, where there’s a will there’s a way.