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The workplace of the 21st century is defined by two elements - people and technologies (Griffin & Care, 2014). It is
no longer sufficient to assume all resources and technologies are known and constant, or to believe that employees
can learn all of the academic, technical or vocational skills that are required in this context. The dynamic world that
we live in means that it isnt possible for one person to manage complex tasks alone (Griffin & Care, 2014; Care et al
2013; Hesse et al 2014). 21st century skills are defined as the skills which are emerging as increasingly important as
those skills which were as valuable in the previous century. They are not replacements for these prior skills, but
additional updates to an overall employees skill set (Griffen & Care, 2014; Care et al 2013; Hesse et al 2014). One
example of a 21st century skill is Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). This is the practical combination of the
conceptual areas of critical thinking, communication and collaboration (
This assignment will describe an example of CPS in a professional context. It will be completed in two parts. The first
part will describe the CPS example. The problem space will be defined, followed by a description of how the
example aligns with the features of CPS outlined by Hesse et al (2014). The second part of the assignment will use a
conceptual framework to identify two specific incidents in the example where collaborators demonstrate different
levels of skill in CPS. It will describe an example of a participant that demonstrates a high level of CPS ability, and
another who demonstrates a low level of CPS ability.
Problem space - The problem space for this example is the development of a coherent curriculum for an
international school in Switzerland. The setting is Grade Four, although similar examples exist in classes from
Kindergarten to Grade Six.
Participants: Classroom teachers (4), ICT specialist teacher (1), Economics specialist teachers in Middle school and
High school (2), Librarian (1), Curriculum coordinator (1), parents (3).
Rationale: This is an example of CPS primarily because one person alone does not have the expertise to define
learning targets and teaching strategies across all of the learning disciplines in the grade. The table below outlines
the indicators that make this an example of CPS and set it apart from other activities, such as group work.
Features of Collaborative Problem Solving (Hesse, Care,
Buder, Sassenberg, and Griffin, 2014)
How it is manifested in this example
Requires collaboration rather than solo effort Although this task can be performed by a single person,
the collaborative process elicits a richer, more thorough
product, resulting in better student learning. This is
because different people bring different resources to the
task, all of which are required to solve the problem of
defining what the students will be able to understand,
know and be able to do as a result of this inquiry. The
classroom teachers and curriculum coordinator identify
key elements of literacy, numeracy, science and social
studies that could be addressed within the inquiry. The
Economics teachers help to structure differentiated
learning outcomes and definitions based on their
developmental knowledge of economics. The ICT and
librarian teachers help to identify areas of digital literacy
that could be taught and assessed. Parents provide
avenues of expertise based on their professions in the
finance industry. All participants also provide a wealth of
teaching and learning strategies that could be used
throughout the inquiry.
Required more often these days as technology,
knowledge and environment are changing rapidly, and
knowledge is usually distributed.
The conceptual understanding and factual knowledge
required to effectively solve this problem is distributed
across a range of people. The dynamic nature of the
current economic environment (Robinson, 2010) in
particular indicates the collaborative imperative that
exists - a single teacher would not be able to stay up to
date with current trends across all disciplines.
Problems are often ill-defined and/or ambiguous. The definition of the problem itself is relatively straight-
forward - what should our students be able to
understand, know and do? It is when an attempt at
solving it happens, that it becomes more messy, as
inquiry generally is (Short, 2009). The changing nature of
the economic climate, as well as new teaching
initiatives, theories of learning and assessment practices
means that the problem becomes ambiguous.
More ways than one to solve the problem. The PYP is a transferrable international curriculum and,
although it provides scope and sequence documents
for numeracy and literacy, the expectation is for
individual schools to develop their own curriculum for
science and social studies within their unique context
(Developing a Transdisciplinary Programme of Inquiry,
IBO, 2012). This means that, although the general
structure will look similar across all PYP schools, there are
many different ways to solve this problem and teachers
need to have flexibility to face different approaches in
each school that they work in.
The solution to the problem needs to be negotiated and
agreed between collaborators.
Without clarity, teachers fall back on what they know
and how they operated in the past. This problem must
be negotiated between and agreed upon by all
members of this group. This is because once they leave
the structure of the planning meeting, each teacher will
lead their individual class into the inquiry. If this problem
is not agreed upon between all participants then not all
students will receive the same learning opportunities.
Participant CPS
Behaviour description Framework element
A High Participant A (ICT specialist) adapts her working style
and level of focus to suit each teacher in their zone of
proximal development within her discipline. She
suggests learning targets for students based on what
they are expected to have achieved in this grade
and also arranges team teaching time with each class
in order to help ensure that these targets are met.
Social: Participation
Perspective taking
(audience awareness)
Social Regulation (self-
evaluation; transactive
Cognitive: Task regulation
(sets goals; resource
management; flexibility;
Learning and knowledge
building (contingencies;
B Low Participant B (classroom teacher) refuses to accept
the ideas and opinions of other group members. He
believes that his approach is the only correct way to
solve this problem and will not entertain the thought of
adapting his way of working, even if it means
sacrificing the collaborative element.
He also fails to complete key elements of his role in the
process of moderating developmental descriptors of
Social: Participation
Social regulation
Cognitive: Task regulation
(resource management)
Social: Participation (task
Care, E., Griffin, P., Woods, K., Mountain, R. (2013). Defining and Assessing 21st Century Skills. Assessment
Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Melbourne University, Victoria.
Hesse, F., Care, E., Buder, J., Sassenberg, K., & Griffin, P., (in press). A Framework for Teachable Collaborative
Problem Solving Skills. In P. Griffin and E. Care (Eds.) Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills: Methods and
Approach. Educational Assessment in an Information Age. Dordrecht, Springer Science and Business Media.
International Baccalaureate Organisation (2012) Developing a Transdisciplinary Programme of Inquiry. Cardiff,
Wales, UK.
Robinson, K. (2001) Out of Our Minds: Learning to be creative. Capstone Publishing, Chichester, West Sussex,
Short, K. (2009) Inquiry as a stance on curriculum. In Taking the PYP Forward. John Catt Educational Ltd. - accessed July 12th, 2014 - accessed July 12th, 2014