On Solutions-Based Thinking & Why Education Needs It

When I went into the education industry more than 10 years ago, I went into it wholeheartedly with enthusiasm, passion and excitement. The first time I stepped foot in my college as a professor I was so excited and happy to start my new teaching journey. Though sadly, I realized that my colleagues did not share those same feelings.

In fact, many of my colleagues had been in the system for so long it has in fact made them a little too jaded, with reason of course. We’re talking here many of them being contract faculty whose jobs were very insecure every semester, and faced with many other obstacles that come with being a contract professor.

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EdCampToronto Session board at Design Cofounders.

I left the college 5 years after. You can read about my reasons here.

I got a job with a great design company in Toronto called Design Cofounders. They do design thinking workshops for educators and entrepreneurs. (You can follow them on twitter here.)

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Loved that the space was utilized in many different ways at DC.

I was an educator in residence there, I worked on The Writing Project (still working on it).

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Problems + Solutions at Design Cofounders.

Within my short time working at DC, I learned why change in education happens very slowly. In education, when we are faced with a problem, we always tend to look at it from a negative perspective. We hear a lot of “we can’t do this” “this will take too long” “there is no budget for that” “I don’t know if anyone will be interested in this idea…”.

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Health Care roundtable kickoff at Design Cofounders.

In the design and technology world, it was different. My colleagues approached many of the ideas with something they call “Solution-Based Thinking”. This model is similar to a design thinking model. It centres around possible solutions that work for all stakeholders.

An important part of the process is that it’s iterative. And it changes a lot. This change is expected, and more often than not welcomed. Something that I also didn’t encounter in education. There are always “specific” processes that we needed to adhere by and change was next to impossible.

Here’s what I learned:

  • When we encounter a problem, approach it with a positive mindset. It will help to solve it faster.
  • Provide solutions and possibilities not impossibilities. Don’t be the naysayer.
  • Leverage resources that you have, and some that you don’t know about. Look for them and do thorough research.
  • Brainstorm. Brainstorm a lot. Write everything down.
  • Document your thinking and brainstorming! Take pictures of the stickies and mapping, you will need it.
  • Write a reflective piece about the process (this is hard for me to do often because of lack of time, but if you can do it, it’s very useful to have for later use).

It’s easy for us to approach everything with a “can’t” do attitude, because most often there is not enough support around us to say “yes, let’s do it”. But what if we were that support that other educators need? What if when we said, “this will work! let’s give it a shot” others might join in and make the impossible possible? It might change a lot.

If you’re interested in reading more about Design Thinking & the Solutions-based thinking model, take a look at Design Cofounders’ thoughts here.

Here is also an article I wrote on Empathy and Design Thinking in education.

2 thoughts on “On Solutions-Based Thinking & Why Education Needs It

  1. You are very right, Rusul. We need to adopt an open-minded, positive approach in education. The excessive focus on the obstacles makes the mind shut down and people adopt a “go with the flow” attitude that is definitely not productive and leaves no room for a forward-thinking, solution-oriented approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article, Rusul. I think solution/forward based thinking also has a lot to do with students self-efficacy.“The belief in one’s capabilities to do, organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” This has a lot to do with the self-esteem of the student. So we actually need to imbibe in this students that any is absolutely possible. Yes, there may be roadblocks, but a positive approach to such roadblocks is far better and we can only get that through solution-based thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

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