Exploring FPSPI: What is it, how did it start and why is it important?

The Future Problem Solving Program International engages students in critical thinking and creative problem solving. Founded by creativity pioneer, Dr. E. Paul Torrance, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, FPSPI stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages students to develop a vision for the future.

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Father of Creativity

Ellis Paul Torrance (October 8, 1915 - July 12, 2003) was an American psychologist from Milledgeville, Georgia.

He grew up in a poor sharecropper family and were it not for his lack of depth perception he may never have gone on to become what some people call the father of creativity.

Upon the encouragement of his father, who realized that because of young Torrances health issues his son would never make it as a farmer, Dr. Torrance embarked on a career in academia.

Even at a young age though Torrance showed an interest in academics. For example, when he was home from school sick for extended periods of time he would make up assignments and then correct his work with a red pen.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Mercer University, he went on to complete a Master's degree at the University of Minnesota, and then a doctorate from the University of Michigan. His teaching career spanned from 1957 to 1984, first at the University of Minnesota and then later the University of Georgia, where he became professor of Educational Psychology in 1966.

In 1984, the University of Georgia established the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development.

His major accomplishments include 1,871 publications:88 books; 256 parts of books or cooperative volumes; 408 journal articles; 538 reports, manuals, tests, etc.; 162 articles in popular journals or magazines; 355 conference papers; and 64 forewords or prefaces.

But the project that he was perhaps most proud of was Future Problem Solving Program International. He was interested in how lessons could encourage creative thinking. He also wanted students to be be more interested in world politics, shaping our future and involved in their communities. He created FPSPI as a way also to think of ways to solve problems without war and violence.

References:
- Cramond, B. 10/12/2011
- Millar, G.W. (2007). E. Paul Torrance, "The Creativity Man" : an Authorized Biography.


PROBLEM SOLVING ONE:
When one looks at our educational system it seems clear that traditional intelligence is celebrated more than creative problem solving. Runco writes “most educational efforts emphasize convergent thinking, and therefore may do very little, if anything, for creative potentials. (Runco, p.5).”

Dr. Torrance was interested in nurturing student’s creative potentials when he started FPSPI. Not everyone agrees that all expressions of creativity are forms of problem solving, but most can agree that problem solving is at least a type of creativity (Runco, p. 15). Guilford had this to say about the topic “I have come to the conclusion that whenever there is a genuine problem there is a novel behavior on the part of the problem solver, hence there is some degree of creativity. Thus, I am saying that all problem solving is creative. I leave the question open as to whether all creative thinking is problem solving.” (Runco, p.16)

PROBLEM SOLVING TWO:
THE BENEFITS OF TEACHING PROBLEM SOLVING IN THE CLASSROOM By Janet M. Morris
Problem Solving is a team activity that helps students learn to think. It teaches students to examinetheir own problems and the problems of the world, both critically and creatively. It provides students with strategies for facing everyday problems, individually and collectively. It teaches students how to think about the world in constructive ways; how to analyze situations and focus on and explore potential alternatives to problems.
As members of a problem solving team students learn to work together in an ever-changingenvironment. This activity gives them practice in compromise, in sharing and in defining and refiningideas. It involves gathering and sharing information; brainstorming ideas; defining a specific problemthat, if solved, may lead to the solution of other problems; selecting and improving on a “best” solution; and describing that solution so that others understand.
The problem solving process helps students improve their research skills; improve their thinkingskills, both creative and critical; and increase their communication skills, both verbal and written. It helps students learn to function more effectively as a member of a team. It also guides students to become more self-directed and responsible, not only as individuals, but as members of a group, and as members of society.

Source: JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS Middle and High School Coaches Booklet, 10,2010a

FPSPI Components
Global Issues Problem Solving
Under the guidance of a teacher/coaches, teams of four students in grades 4-12 use the FPSP six-step model to explore challenges and propose action plans to complex societal problems, such as fads, financial security, amateur sports, the Internet and genetic engineering

Teams are divided into three divisions:

Grades 4 - 6 (Junior)
Grades 7 - 9 (Middle)
Grades 10 - 12 (Senior)

Teams complete two practice problems and one qualifying problem throughout the school year. Trained evaluators score student work and return it with feedback including suggestions for improvement. The top scoring teams on the qualifying problem are invited to Affiliate FPS Bowls held each spring. The winners of each respective Affiliate FPS Bowl advance to the FPSP International Conference in June.


Individual Global Issues Problem Solving

Individual competition is offered in affiliate programs choosing to administer an individual program. A student works individually rathaer than as a member of a team. Check with the affiliate director of your respective program for additional information on individual competition.


Action-based Problem Solving
This year-long, non-competitive component is designed for use in the regular classroom and introduces students to the skills of creative problem solving in a hands-on, non-threatening manner. Teams consisting of four-six students are encouraged to work on two topics, one per semester. Three divisions are offered: Primary (grades K-3), Junior (grades 3-6) and Middle (grades 6-9).


Community Problem Solving (CmPS)
Teams apply their FPS skills to real problems in their community. A community problem is a problem that exists within the school, local community, region, state or nation. Implementation of the action plan is included in this component. Teams move from hypothetical issues to real world, authentic concerns. The top Community Problem Solving Team projects are invited to the FPSP International Conference in June.


Scenario Writing

Students compose futuristic short stories (1,500 words or less) related to one of the current year's topics. The first place winner in each affiliate program is invited to the FPSP International Conference.

Additionally, each affiliate director may submit its top three essays to the International Scenario Writing Competition.

SOURCE:
http://www.fpspi.org/Components.html, 11/2/2011


SAMPLE PROBLEM SOLVING TOPIC: ENVIRONMENT
Subtopics might include: School Recycling
Waste Clean Water
Ozone Community

ON THE DAY OF COMPETITION:
Students will be given an envelope with the prompt that focuses on one of the subtopics and the following instructions.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR STUDENTS
Prepare a written statement on the problem, using the Future Problem Solving format, to address the prompt. REMEMBER! The Future Scene is NOT the problem.

PROBLEM SOLVING PROMPT
In the year 2010, XYZ Middle School is located in an area of Harbortown, USA that looks bad.
People do not feel safe. Parents are hesitant to send their students to the school because they don’t like the looks of the area and they don’t like the gangs hanging out on the street corners. The school must do something to improve its image or students will quit coming to the school.
This prompt deals with several potential problems. Define a problem related to this prompt and
suggest a solution to that problem.

Beginning the Project
In the process of getting ready for the Problem Solving competition, the students on the problem solving team will have researched several different subtopics. One of these subtopics might be the community surrounding the school. In order to study that component, the students on the problem solving team took a walk around the neighborhood. They recorded what they saw, documenting the litter, uncut grass and peeling paint. “When it looks bad, it feels bad,” said one student. “Does anybody in this neighborhood care what it looks like?” said another student. Why did the area look so bad? If the area looked better, would people be more willing to send their students to that school? Could they possibly affect the area around the school? What would happen if they did? Is there a reason that the area looks so bad? What kinds of things affect this prompt? What are the problems outlined in the prompt and the
problems that may have caused the situation?

Brainstorm Problems
· No one mows the grass in the public areas.
· The people in the neighborhood are old and they can’t do the work.
· It is a busy street and people throw things out of car windows.
· There aren’t any trash cans.
· The stores are closed because there is no business in this area.
· The houses are old and they haven’t been repaired.
· Older kids hang out on the street corners after school and leave candy wrappers and soft drink cans.
· There are no flowers planted.
· The trees are old and some of them are dying.

Brainstorm Solutions
· Pick up trash.
· Put up signs asking people not to throw trash.
· Change the traffic patterns so the street won’t be so busy.
· Mow the grass.
· Paint the houses.
· Talk to the people who live in the houses about fixing them up.
· Talk to the housing authority about helping people fix up their houses.
· Ask the police to make more frequent visits to the area to discourage the gangs.
· Sweep the sidewalks.

Source:
JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS Middle and High School Coaches Booklet, 10/2010