Collaborative Problem Solving in a Nutshell

The general principle of Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) theory is simple, but very powerful: “kids do well if they can.” In other words, all children are eager to learn and capable of academic greatness, assuming that there are appropriate resources and support systems available. In many cases, at-risk students, or children of promise, do not have these supports in place. This means that in order to arrive at a solution, teachers must be able to identify their own role in the problem, and work with the student(s) in question to change any negative behaviour that is being exhibited.

Dr. Greene also sees the root of most challenging behaviours at school as a set of what he calls “lagging skills” in problem solving, frustration tolerance, flexibility, and adaptability. One of the central strategies he suggests is the use of discussions/conferences with students in order for both parties to voice their concerns and brainstorm potential solutions. As I mentioned in a previous reflective post, my own experiences with CPS theory have so far been very successful, and I believe wholeheartedly in its merits as a teaching practice. While I could usually sense when it would be beneficial to try my hand at CPS, and when I shouldn’t intervene, there were a handful of instances when I found it challenging to gauge which strategy would be more effective. I know that as a new teacher, this skill will become more and more intuitive over the course of my career, and I am definitely going to continue applying Dr. Greene’s theory to my own teaching.


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