Sterling Academy Blog

How traditional schooling can stifle our children's problem solving effectiveness

Posted by Sterling Staff on Feb 4, 2015 7:09:00 AM

The ability to solve problems is as fundamental to everyday living as it is to enjoying a satisfying career. It is a skill every child needs to develop. Yet traditional schooling often tends to stifle our children’s natural curiosity and problem-solving capabilities instead of encouraging them.

Traditional high schools are governed by time.

Of necessity, class schedules are rigidly defined, so each class period is limited. Classroom time is devoted to accomplishing the day’s lesson plan – assimilating facts and figures and staying “on track.” All too often, there is not enough time to explore the “how and why” behind concepts and events or discuss their ramifications. Homework is assigned with due dates, to keep students focused and the class moving forward. 

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This can be especially disconcerting when a student is struggling with a subject. The further behind they slip while the group moves on, the less likely they are to acquire information or skills that will aid in problem-solving later on.

The pressure of time also means students who are particularly interested in a subject are unable to fully explore those opportunities. When school lacks meaning, our children can become bored or disenchanted with school as a whole.

Online students have freedom to research and learn on their own.

They can set their own learning schedule, try out new study methods and follow their passions, without worrying about the need to adhere to a pre-set timetable.

Online students have the freedom to make mistakes.

Small children naturally experiment, unfettered by the “stigma” of failure. In the structured environment of traditional schools, our children learn that making mistakes is not acceptable. The “right” answer is the goal. That can discourage students from looking for new ways to approach problems or creatively devising solutions.

Trial and error – the foundation of invention – not only requires time but an atmosphere in which making mistakes and learning from them is considered a good thing. Students who become good problem-solvers understand that “getting it right” isn’t always good, at least not at first, because the quickest or most obvious solution may not be the best.

Peer pressure can be an overwhelming influence at a traditional high school. It is not cool to make mistakes – or stand out in any way. That can have a dramatic stifling effect on many students’ willingness to try something new or even participate in classroom discussion.

Online schools eliminate negative distractions that prevent students from stretching. Instead, they can they can take all the time they want to dream up original ideas, contemplate the possibilities, test new theories, build something that doesn’t work and try again. And again.

Problem-solving is a creative exercise.

The brain is a muscle, and it must be flexed regularly to perform well. Just as we need whole-body physical exercise -- arms as well as legs and torso – our brain needs thinking exercise in addition to factual learning.

Unfortunately, traditional schools typically emphasize a limited range of core and elective subjects while downplaying “non-essentials” like music and art. Many school districts have virtually eliminated these electives due to budget constraints. And yet, when it comes to effective problem-solving, creativity and knowledge go hand-in-hand. Astronomers and entrepreneurs have to be as imaginative as artists and musicians.

Online high school enables students to go beyond core curriculum in whatever direction most interests them, with an extensive range of course offerings and the flexibility for students to pursue endeavors such as music and art to the extent desired. And it gives students the power of time to develop critical problem-solving skills.

            Fresh Start        

Topics: online high school, Problem Solving

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