The solution-focused model uses
ques-tions interconnected with
Exception-finding questions are used to ex-plore times, in the past and present, when theproblem is less frequent, or when it is notthere. Student strengths and resources, nomatter how small, are highlighted. By askingexception-finding questions, “holes” are be-ing poked in the problem picture. Possibili-ties and resources begin to emerge.
“When has your son done better inschool?”“Two months ago, you were handing in your assignments on time. What helped you then?”“How did you manage to show up for school two days this week? You could have skipped all five days.”“If your friends or your parents werehere, what would they say helps you todo better in school?”
Future-oriented questions help the studentand parent to visualize what life will look like when the problem is solved or when thesituation is improved. Most students andparents have never thought about this futurepicture because they are focused on the prob-lem picture.
“Suppose the problem is solved, what willbe happening?”“Suppose school is going better for you,what will that look like?”“When math class is going better for you,what will that look like? What will I bedoing? What will you (your friends, par-ents) be doing?”
Students and parents like scaling questionsbecause they help to break a problem downinto small pieces. The problem is not sooverwhelming when they look at it on ascale. Scaling questions are visual and con-crete tools that can be used in any situation.Like any tool, they should not be overused orthey will lose their effectiveness.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 means Jeff isreading as best as possible and 1 meansthe opposite, where would you put himtoday?”“Jeff, on that same scale, 10 means youare reading as best as possible and 1means you are not, where would you put yourself today?”
You may wish to use the solution-focusedworksheet (next page) to guide your parent-teacher meetings and to help you rememberthe key points of a solution-focused meeting.When you begin the meeting, be sure to takesome time to establish rapport and to high-light positives about the student.
Be persistent in solution-focused question-ing. Try these questions out during a parent-teacher meeting. Many teachers have beenamazed with the results.
Durrant, M. (1995). Creative strategies for school problems.New York: W. W. Norton.Lipchik, E. & de Shazer, S. (1986). The purposeful interview.Journal of Strategic and Systemic Therapies, 11 (3), 4-19.McConkey, N. (2002).
Solving School Problems. Solution- focused strategies for principals, teachers and counsellors
.Alberta: Solution Talk Press.
About the Author
Nancy McConkey, M.S.W.,is a family therapist, profes-sional speaker and leadingexpert in the solution-focusedapproach. She is the authorof the book,
“Solving SchoolProblems: Solution-Focused Strategies for Principals,Teachers and Counsellors”.
Nancy has presented hundreds of workshopsto professionals from schools, hospitals, psy-chiatric facilities, community health clinics,child welfare agencies, substance abuse treat-ment centres and mental health agencies.She is a sought after keynote speaker, bothnationally and international for education,health care and counselling conferences
Solving School Problems:
Solution-Focused Strategies for Principals, Teachers and Counsellors
This book gives school professionalspractical, solution-focused strategies forsolving problems with students andparents, rapidly and effectively.The solution-focused model is useful fora wide range of problems and all agegroups. No matter what your role, youwill learn practical skills to shift from
will learn how to:
defuse anger and resistance
use solution-focused discipline strategies
deal with aggressive and high-risk youth
deal with bullying problems
do solution-focused team building withstaff
will learn how to:
work with difficult students and parents
conduct solution-focused parent-teacherinterviews
resolve student conflicts quickly
use brief, positive interventions in theclassroom
will learn how to:
do single session counselling
use solution-focused techniques in groups
work quickly to promote change
work with resistant students
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