Celebrating 50 Years and Beyond (1974-2024) at our International Conference June 5-9, 2024

6-Step Problem-Solving Method

Our Approach

Once learned, it’s easy to apply

Students learn to thoroughly research and analyze real world issues then apply a 6-step creative problem-solving process to develop relevant action plans.

Why It Works

Skills stay for life

The skills problem solvers learn ensure they are ready to succeed in their classes today and in their work and life tomorrow.
You’re taking a problem that is plaguing society or that will plague society in the future and you are critically thinking and finding the underlying issue and how you can address it.
Shefa Sikder
Global Public Health Expert
(Alum)
I believe we really make a positive impact on the lives of students by fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Being an Affiliate Director allows me to witness the growth and development of young talented Chinese students.
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Sophia Liu
China Future Problem Solving
(Affiliate Director)
Future Problem Solving taught me to think critically about the world, work with a group of people to produce one cohesive work, and gave me the ability to solve everyday problems in an academic way. I use these skills everyday.
alexandria roy testimonial
Alexandria Roy
Public Health Research Program Manager
(Alum)

How It Works

A problem-solving model for any situation

Students move well beyond memorization to apply learned information and make decisions. With our 6-step process, they alternate between using divergent and convergent thinking skills to develop relevant action plans to our imagined future scenarios or real world issues of their own choosing. Highly flexible, the model may also be taught for use in the classroom and beyond.

Identify Challenges

Students start by analyzing a given situation and generating possible challenges, issues, or problems related to the situation. A richer understanding of the situation develops as students identify logical cause and effect relationships. The first step encourages critical, creative, and futuristic thinking through the identification of many challenges in multiple categories.

Select an Underlying Problem

After analyzing all the possible challenges identified, students narrow their focus to a single issue area of major importance. They complete this step by articulating the underlying problem they plan to solve.

Produce Solution Ideas

With their underlying problem selected, students shift to generating solutions to address this one problem. Quality, quantity, and the use of a variety of categories are encouraged in this step.

Select Criteria

At this point, students move to planning for action. They develop five criteria relevant to their underlying problem, each focused on a single standard, to measure the merit of their solution ideas.

Apply Criteria to Top Solutions

Students complete an evaluation grid by comparing their most promising solutions to their selected criteria. By ranking the solutions against each criterion separately, they determine their best solution.

Develop an Action Plan

The problem-solving process does not end with a simple solution. Instead, in the final step, students develop a written plan of action to both explain their process and implement the best solution to address their underlying problem in the future. The world finals, and most regional affiliate finals, also require a creative presentation or skit of the action plan.

Community Projects

Students gain more choice and voice in their own learning

In our Community Projects program, our proven 6-step problem-solving process, adjusted slightly, still applies. With each project activity, students go well beyond a typical volunteer service project. They gain practice identifying real community issues, taking meaningful action to solve problems, and communicating their thinking and progress.

Student Showcase

Lifetime skills in action

The skills our students develop ensure they are well equipped to solve complex problems in their future work and life.

Artificial Intelligence

Action Plan Presentation
The Copper Power System is a sustainable energy solution for powering Artificial Intelligence.
World Solutions Challenge
Karry, Naomi, Soyul, and Yigu
(New Zealand)

Terraforming

Action Plan Presentation
Our machine filters underground ocean water so colonists can drink water on Jupiter's moon.
Global Issues Junior Division
Amaya, Kate, Savannah, and Skye
(New Zealand)

Neurotechnology

Action Plan Presentation
Our AI helper will monitor and adjust patient treatments through neurotechnology.
Global Issues Senior Division
Ananya, Diya, Medha, and Meeta
(North Carolina)

Our History

Learning how to think, not what to think

Fifty years ago, with the creation of a competition to engage and inspire learning, we were on the leading edge of the movement to transform education. Future Problem Solving’s founder Dr. E. Paul Torrance applied the Osborn-Parnes creative problem-solving process to imagined challenges set in the future. As a psychologist best known for his research in creativity and education, Dr. Torrance brought a real world perspective to teaching problem solving skills.

By continually innovating how and where we deliver our proven 6-step problem-solving method, we meet the needs of learners today. Our evidence-based approach to inspiring young people ensures the skills our students learn stay with them for life.

student-problem-solving-presentation

Future Problem Solving Students – A Five Year Study

(2016)

A Comparison of Reading and Mathematics Performance Between Students Participating in a Future Problem Solving Program and Nonparticipants

Data from the The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) was collected by Grandview Middle School and provided to Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. for statistical analysis.


Findings reported by Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. Performance data on the MCA was collected from 2010-2014 for students in grade 6 at Grandview Middle School in Mound, MN (Westonka Public School District). Students were identified as either FPS: students participating in a Future Problem Solving program, or Non-FPS: students not participating in the program. Summary statistics using Reading and Mathematics Scaled Scores were developed for each group of students by year and across years. To determine if the mean scores across the years were significantly different, t-tests were used. A Cohen’s d test was then performed to measure the effect of the size of the found differences.

In all cases, students participating in the Future Problem Solving Program performed significantly higher on the MCA in both areas of Mathematics and Reading.

Effects of Group Training in Problem-Solving Style on Future Problem-Solving Performance

(2017)

The Journal of Creative Behavior (JCB) of the Creative Education Foundation

Seventy-five participants from one suburban high school formed 21 teams with 3–4 members each for Future Problem Solving (FPS). Students were selected to participate in either the regular FPS or an enhanced FPS, where multiple group training activities grounded in problem-solving style were incorporated into a 9-week treatment period.

An ANCOVA procedure was used to examine the difference in team responses to a creative problem-solving scenario for members of each group, after accounting for initial differences in creative problem-solving performance, years of experience in FPS, and creative thinking related to fluency, flexibility, and originality. The ANCOVA resulted in a significant difference in problem-solving performance in favor of students in the treatment group (F(1, 57) = 8.21, p = .006, partial eta squared = .126, medium), while there were no significant differences in years of experience or creativity scores. This result led researchers to conclude that students in both groups had equivalent creative ability and that participation in the group activities emphasizing problem-solving style significantly contributed to creative performance.

In the comparison group, a total of 47% had scores that qualified for entry to the state competition. In contrast, 89% of the students in the treatment group had scores that qualified them for the state bowl. None of the teams from the comparison group qualified for the international competition, while two teams from the treatment group were selected, with one earning sixth place.

The results of this study suggest that problem-solving performance by team members can be improved through direct instruction in problem-solving style, particularly when there is a focus on group dynamics.

The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–12 © 2017 by the Creative Education Foundation, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/jocb.176

Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study

(2011)

“How important was Future Problem Solving in the development of your following skill sets?”

In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Virginia submitted a report titled “Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study.” (Callahan, Alimin, & Uguz, 2012). The study, based on a survey, collected data from over 150 Future Problem Solving alumni to understand the impact of their participation in Future Problem Solving as students or volunteers.

 
Percentage of Alumni Rating Important and Extremely Important in Developing Skill Sets
  • 96% Look at the “Big Picture”
  • 93% Critical Thinking
  • 93% Teamwork and Collaboration
  • 93% Identify and Solve Problems
  • 93% Time Management
  • 90% Researching
  • 90% Evaluation and Decision Making
  • 86% Creativity and Innovation
  • 86% Written Communication
 
The report captured alumni’s positive experiences as students in Future Problem Solving and documented that the alumni continued to utilize the FPS-structured approach to solving problems in their adult lives.

Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program

(2011)

Data was obtained from 220 coaches, 633 students, 195 parents, and 34 affiliate directors nationally and internationally

The Center for Creative Learning, USA (Treffinger, Selby, and Crumel) completed an international evaluation of Future Problem Solving including three competitive programs (Global Issues, Community Projects, and Creative Writing). Surveys ascertained 1,082 respondents’ views of: the extent to which Future Problem Solving and its programs meet their stated goals, the strengths of the programs and areas for improvement, and the impact of the program on its participants.

All respondents with current experience participating in each program rated a comprehensive list of 11-12 skills using a 5-point Likert scale. The adult groups identified the impact on participating students’ learning and growth, and the students identified what skills their participation helped them with the most.

 
Top 5 Most Impactful Skills Identified by Program

GLOBAL ISSUES

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (151)

  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.60)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration, working together and cooperating with each other (4.39)
  • Fostering critical thinking (the ability to sort and sift information or to focus one’s thinking) (4.29)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.29)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.02)

 

Students (242)

  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future. (4.14)
  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.13)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.99)
  • Helping become a better leader (3.90)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (3.87)

 

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (64)

  • Enhancing the skills of preparing and delivering materials and/or presentations that communicate ideas effectively (4.76)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration (working together, cooperating with each other)(4.56)
  • Developing leadership skills (4.56)
  • Showing evidence that team members are able to apply FPS skills in other situations (4.30)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.27)

 

Students (107)

  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.33)
  • Feeling that I can make a difference in shaping the future (4.13)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (4.07)
  • Helping me become a better leader (3.97)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.96)

 

CREATIVE WRITING

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (82)

  • Enhancing and expanding writing skills (4.39)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.11)
  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.10)
  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.06)
  • Fostering creative thinking (the ability to generate many, varied, and unusual options (3.98)

 

Students (146)

  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.08)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.05)
  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future (3.99)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.92)
  • Finding information in many different places (3.69)

 

Note, 88% of parents were satisfied with the Future Problem Solving program their youngster(s) participated in and a majority of parents with eligible students anticipated a high level of interest in participating again next year (60.9%).

Alumni Top 5 Most Impactful Skills on Their Development

A group of 48 alumni also responded to surveys focused on their past experiences and the impact those experiences had on their development into adulthood. Approximately 8 in 10 reported Future Problem Solving was very helpful or extremely helpful in secondary school (81%), in academic work after high school (78%), and in other life experiences outside school or academic work (81%). Looking back on their experience, the aspects below were rated the five most important and valuable.

  • Learning ways to think of many different and unusual ideas (4.75)
  • Learning how to choose the best solution for a problem (4.42)
  • Learning how to work or collaborate with others (4.41)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.36)
  • Learning a specific process for solving problems (4.35)
 
Results indicated strong overall satisfaction with Future Problem Solving among all stakeholder groups, as well as evidence of positive impact on academic and real-life accomplishments and personal relationships.

 

5-point Likert scale:
Adults: 1 = Little or no impact, 2 = Limited impact, 3 = Moderate impact, 4 = High impact, 5 = Exceptional impact
Students: 1= Hasn’t helped me at all, 2 = Helped me just a little, 3 = Helped me = “Okay”, 4 = Helped me quite a bit, 5= Really a great help to me
Alumni: 1=Not Important, 2=Of Little Importance, 3=Somewhat Important, 4=Very Important, 5=Extremely Important

April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in gifted education. She earned the National Board certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board assessor for the certification of others. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for the state of Florida’s certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education. Beyond her U.S. education credentials, she has been trained for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem-solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.