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  • Thaqui Ali and Mridula Chalamalasetti

How do we know what to nurture?

Lessons from secondary research that shaped the latest Think & Make Program


Think & Make Program in classroom - Facilitated by Student-Leaders


Inqui-Lab’s flagship program, ‘Think and Make’, has always been focused on setting up adolescents to become creative individuals who think critically about their surroundings. In its different versions, the program has had units, sessions, or blocks, each with some underlying connection. This could be a technology or way of solving problems. It could be an archetype of problems themselves. It could be a lens of problem solving.

Since the early years, we have come to understand what should go into designing such programmes. It is less a question of what problems, ideas, and prototypes came up, but more an exploration of what those things led to. Being a product that is still evolving, after our most recent implementation, we decided to collect more recent primary data and revisit the research that was previously used to inform design.

Field observations, participant interviews, and discussions with the Impact team validated those competencies that Think & Make wanted to nurture: problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and empathy. Poring through research on these competencies served a dual purpose : articulating what we saw through program implementation AND rallying the team on what we want to see in future implementation.

We believe Think & Make is now even more focused on nurturing some of these ‘21st century skills’ in a way that is joyous, filled with tinkering, and carefully scaffolded, thus inspiring confidence and belief.

So, what were these learnings about T&M’s target competencies and how have they translated into our product development? Read for yourself!

PS : you can also see for yourself by getting in touch with us via info@inqui-lab.org!

Problem Solving

is at the crux of T&M. Research told us how it draws on many abilities; from collecting, interpreting, & synthesising data, to strategising, reasoning, thinking analytically, & making decisions. Design Thinking, in essence, is a process to do just that! Since repeated practice serves as an enabler in building problem solving, the program changed from a single problem solving cycle in a unit to multiple, smaller, problem solving cycles in a block. It will be interesting to see how this influences internalisation of problem solving among participants.


Creativity

as a buildable skill remains a core belief at Inqui-Lab. Research shows that generating unique, valuable, & relevant insights is not just an innate talent, but one that can be developed through practice & exposure to diverse experiences. Expanding the scope of creative expression, the program changed from ideation for a selected problem to include extrapolating an idea’s origins AND ideation for diverse, given, problems. This format has the potential to make sure participants remember the block’s underlying connection.



Critical Thinking

plays a vital role in shaping effective problem solvers. Research helped us crystallise how it involves purposeful thinking while evaluating information, identifying biases, and making informed judgments. It was insightful to note that critical thinking can be a collaborative effort, not necessarily a competitive exercise. To keep this at the forefront, the program changed from generalisable selection criteria [of problem, solution, etc] to context & theme specific discussions & decisions. Through such a scaffolded approach, it is hoped that participants become familiar with the theme of the block & the appropriateness of solutions before solving for their own problems.


Collaboration

is another core tenet of the T&M product. Working together towards a common goal requires effective communication, sharing of ideas and information, and mutual respect for the perspectives of others. It enables individuals to draw upon diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise to generate new ideas and solve complex problems. To better infuse collaborative work across T&M, the program changed from intra-team activities to also include inter-team & whole class activities. Such agenda-driven interactions [solving, sharing feedback, evaluating / appreciating, together] can amplify the collaborative atmosphere.

Empathy

drives not just program participant connectedness but participant-stakeholder connectedness as well. The ability to feel what another feels / experiences [emotional], take their perspective [cognitive], and respond in a caring / supportive manner [compassionate] is also a practised skill. Considering participants’ practical limitations in terms of access to stakeholders, the program changed from in-depth problem understanding to mirroring example problem solvers, basic problem understanding, and multiple feedback structures. The usage of individual diaries or portfolios will continue so that it helps participants reflect on their actions, evaluate their peers’ actions, and communicate their program experience.










Excitement and apprehension are two feelings the whole Think & Make team are currently sharing. As we gear up for the implementation of V4.0 this academic year [2023-24], we look forward to being more deliberate in learning from the ground and enhancing what we understand about these competencies and how our programs can further nurture them. Stay tuned for more from Team T&M @ Inqui-Lab!


References

Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The standard definition of creativity. Creativity research journal, 24(1), 92-96.

Peachey, N., & Maley, A. (2015). Creativity in the English language classroom. London: British Council.

Weir, K. (2022, April). The science behind creativity. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/04/cover-science-creativity

Zedelius, C. M., Protzko, J., Broadway, J. M., & Schooler, J. W. (2021). What types of daydreaming predict creativity? Laboratory and experience sampling evidence. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 15(4), 596.

Rahman, M. M. (2019). 21st century skill 'problem solving': Defining the concept. Rahman, MM (2019). 21st Century Skill “Problem Solving”: Defining the Concept. Asian Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 2(1), 64-74.

Snyder, L. G., & Snyder, M. J. (2008). Teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills. The Journal of Research in Business Education, 50(2), 90.

Facione, P. A. (2011). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. Insight assessment, 1(1), 1-23.

Cunsolo, Richardson, & Vrolijk(2021). How empathizing develops and affects well-being throughout childhood.

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