Effective: Early Spring 8-Week 2018/2019

EDUC 523: Critical And Creative Problem Solving

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  Course Description

The study of critical and creative problem solving as it applies to teaching and learning. Cognitive understanding of the major models of critical thinking and creativity will be reinforced with experiences that require higher levels of thinking, including analysis, evaluation, and creative problem solving. Methods for teaching critical thinking to students will also be addressed.

Prerequisite: Graduate standing; full MAT or M.Ed. status.

Proctored Exams: None



  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.New York: Basic Books.  
    • [ISBN-978-0-465-02411-7]
  • Goodwin, M. & Sommervold, C. (2012). Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Communication: Strategies to Increase Students' Skills.Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.  
    • [ISBN-978-61048-798-6]
  • Nosich, G. M. (2012). Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum (4th ed). Upper Saddle Rive, NJ: Pearson.  
    • [ISBN-978-0-13-708514-9]

MBS Information

Textbooks for the course may be ordered from MBS Direct. You can order

For additional information about the bookstore, visit http://www.mbsbooks.com.

  Course Overview

This course is designed to help you develop your skills as a critical and creative thinker as well as your ability to teach critical and creative thinking. To that end, this course will call upon you to be a reflective learner and to apply what you are learning to yourself and to your work. You will also develop a lesson/activity meant to engage students in the process of creative problem solving.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Understands how students develop and learn. (1.3)
  2. Demonstrates a deep understanding of the history, structure and real-world applications of the subject matter. (2.1)
  3. Models what it means to be an educated person – they read, question, and create, and are willing to try new things. (4.1)
  4. Critically examines their practice on a regular basis to deepen knowledge, expand their repertoire of skills, and incorporate new findings into their practice. (4.3)


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 540-600 90-100%
B 480-539 80-89%
C 420-479 70-79%
F 0-419 0-69%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions 170 28%
Dropbox Assignments 230 38%
Final Project 200 33%
Total 600 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Introduction 10 Wednesday
Discussion 1 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 2 10
Dropbox 1: Definition of creativity and critical thinking 30 Saturday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Dropbox 2: Perry's Theory 50 Saturday

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 4 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 5 10
Dropbox 3: Mission Statement 50 Saturday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 6 20 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 7 20

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 8 10 Wednesday/Saturday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9 20 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 10 10
Dropbox 4: Finding Flow 50 Saturday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 11 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Dropbox 5: Redefining creativity and critical thinking 50 Saturday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 12 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 13 10
Final Project 200 Saturday
Total Points: 600

  Assignment Overview


Class discussions are the heart and soul of this course.  Therefore, you are expected to thoroughly answer discussion questions.  You are also expected to respond to at least one classmate in each discussion topic.

Your original posts are due by 11:59 PM Central Time (CT) on Wednesday and at least one response to classmates due by 11:59 PM CT on Saturday.

One of the skills graduate students often need to work on is “economy of expression” – learning how to express their viewpoint in a way that is both thorough and concise.  In order to encourage you to work on this skill, your main posts need to be at least 300 words but must not exceed 700 words. Additionally, all main posts should include at least one text reference.

Your responses to others’ posts should further the discussion, including posing questions and offering unique thoughts and ideas.  The responses should be of minimum 100 words. Simply posting “I agree” or “good job” does not further the discussion.  Although you are required to respond to only one classmate, additional responses are encouraged.

Dropbox Assignments

All papers must be in a .doc, or .rtf format. Your work should be double-spaced, 12-point sans serif font (e.g., Calibri, Arial), with 1 inch margins all around. The required length for all papers varies by assignment, from 300-700 words.  See more detailed expectations for each assignment in the Content area of the course. At least three text references (citation of relevant text material) must be included, when relevant.  When citing resources, you must adhere strictly to 6th edition APA style (although you will not be required to provide an abstract for any writing assignment in this course).

All assignments must be your own original work, and must be original to this course.  You may not submit papers for this course that you have used previously for another course, including excerpts from those papers.

Although the papers in this course are informal, you are expected to write professionally with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 

All papers are due by 11:59 PM CT on Saturday of the week they have been assigned.

Final Project

You will complete a Creative Problem Solving Project in this course that will include developing a detailed lesson plan with relevant handouts and resources. 

Your project must be in a .doc, or .rtf format. It should be single-spaced.  Please use 12-point sans serif font (e.g., Calibri, Arial), with 1 inch margins all around. 

There is no required length for this project except in the Introduction, which must be 400-500 words.  There are also no required text references, although you must cite any borrowed information or resources (a web link is adequate).

Your project must be your own original work, and must be original to this course.  You may not submit a project for this course that you have used previously for another course, including excerpts from another project.  It is acceptable, however, to use handouts and resources borrowed from another source as long as they are properly cited.

This project is due by 11:59 PM CT on Wednesday of Week 8.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.


Nosich, Chapter 1

Goodwin & Sommervold, Chapters 1-2


Introduce yourself and be sure to include your current job position and any personal interests. We will interact with one another quite a bit in this course, and this is where we begin!

Discussion 1
Page 21 of the Nosich text lists educational practices the text says discourage critical thinking. First consider and discuss which of those practices seem “right” to you. That is, which of them seem to you to be a genuine way education should be? Why? Then address this question: How could the practices listed actually get in the way of critical thinking and learning in general?
Discussion 2

Chapter 2 of the Goodwin & Sommervold text is titled “Consilience.” Consilience is defined as “the bringing together of ideas to form a complete philosophy” (p. 14). In consilience we find agreement and corroboration among different perspectives, arguments, and approaches. What is your understanding of the consilience among the 3 C’s discussed in Chapter 1? How do they “come together to form a complete philosophy”?

Dropbox 1: Definition of creativity and critical thinking
Before doing any of your reading for this course, define creativity and critical thinking. What does it mean to be creative? What does it mean to be a critical thinker? This is an opportunity for you to consider the assumptions you are bringing with you to this course, and is something we will revisit later.

Nosich, Chapter 2

Perry Handout (in class)

Discussion 3
Ask yourself the following question: “Why am I furthering my education by taking courses online?” Think through (and write out) each of the elements from Chapter 2 in the Nosich text with respect to this question. Go around the circle as Chris did on pages 71-75 with respect to marrying Sean. Bear in mind that there is no right order to apply the elements, although it is helpful to begin with purpose, question at issue, context, and/or point of view.
Dropbox 2: Perry's Theory

Think back on your time as an undergraduate student and describe an educational experience that either moved you from one level of Perry’s scheme to another or that you believe defines where you were at that time on Perry’s scheme. Be sure to describe the experience thoroughly and clearly connect it to Perry’s theory.


Nosich, Chapter 3

Goodwin & Sommervold, Chapters 3-4

Discussion 4
The gray box on page 108 of the Nosich text walks you through the process of thinking through “the central question.” As the box describes, think through the central question of this particular course. Write four versions of it and then settle on the one you think captures it best. Explain why you chose that one.
Discussion 5
Ken Robinson has become well-known for his focus on creativity in schools and how to revolutionize education. Watch his TED Talk entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity? Then, consider this information in light of the discussion in the Goodwin and Sommervold text of the history of the American educational system and the need for a focus on “the 3 C’s.” For this discussion, share your reaction to the video and to the Goodwin and Sommervold chapters. What are your thoughts on the role of creativity, critical thinking, and communication in today’s schools as well as in today’s society?
Dropbox 3: Mission Statement

Formulate a mission statement for yourself as an educator. It should take into account what you believe is most important for you to be doing in your work. Write out a SEE-I (see pages 30-34 of the Nosich text) for your mission statement. Be sure you label each part so it’s clear what you are addressing! And keep in mind that this is an exercise in how to properly do a SEE-I. Your content is important, of course, but be sure you follow the guidelines closely. If you don’t, you’re missing the main point of this assignment!


Nosich, Chapter 4

Discussion 6

Post three statements that, by your best overall knowledge and judgment, are accurate. Try to think not only of statements that are hard facts (“1+1=2”) but also statements that, although not hard facts, seem to you, based on available evidence, to be true (e.g., “Members of the National Rifle Association own guns”).

Then, read and respond to two of your fellow classmates’ posts, indicating the extent to which you agree or disagree with the “truth” of one or more of their statements. Be sure to include a solid reason, the kind of reason that would make Nosich proud (one that goes well beyond opinion), for why you agree or disagree. This may require that you back up your reason with a citation.

Discussion 7

Consider a belief about teaching and/or education to which you hold strongly. State that belief, and write a paragraph in which you explain what brought you to that belief, bearing in mind the Standards Check on pages 158-159 of the Nosich text.

Then, choose two other classmates’ paragraphs, and evaluate the extent to which their paragraph meets the standards proposed by Nosich. Provide your classmate with clear, accurate, and relevant feedback, using the standards check. Note that this is not an exercise in “grading” one another’s work, but a chance for you to give and receive feedback that is based on the standards.


Goodwin & Sommervold, Chapter 6

Csikszentmihalyi, Chapters 1-3

Discussion 8
The last half of Chapter 6 in Goodwin and Sommervold lays out strategies for how critical thinking can be increased, this time specifically in the classroom. Similar to Week 5’s Discussion 2, describe an activity that encourages the development of critical thinking utilizing one of these strategies. This may require that you think of the “classroom” in a broader sense (i.e. anywhere teaching and learning occur, not just in a school). Be sure to be specific about which strategy you choose and what the activity is, and how these increase critical thinking.

Goodwin & Sommervold, Chapter 5

Finish Csikszentmihalyi, Chapters 1-3

Discussion 9

Share with your classmates your topic for the Creative Problem Solving Project, including a brief summary of the activity you would have students do. If you would like any advice or suggestions from your classmates, pose those questions here.

Then, respond to two classmates’ posts, addressing their questions if they’ve asked any or simply sharing your thoughts on what they plan to do.

Discussion 10

The last half of Chapter 5 in Goodwin and Sommervold lays out strategies for how creativity can be increased in your home, job, or classroom. Describe an activity that encourages the development of creativity utilizing one of these strategies. Be sure to be specific about which strategy you choose and what the activity is, and how these increase creativity.

Dropbox 4: Finding Flow

Chapters 1-3 of Finding Flow provide a good introduction to the concept of flow. Csikszentmihalyi himself discussed the concept, especially as it relates to creativity and happiness, in his TED talk Flow, the Secret to Happiness.

Describe a time when you found flow in a creative process. What was that like for you? In what way did the flow experience impact your creativity and your use of critical thinking skills during this process?

Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.

Goodwin & Sommervold, Chapter 7

Discussion 11
The last half of Chapter 7 in Goodwin and Sommervold lays out strategies for teaching communication skills. Similar to Week 5’s Discussion 2, describe an activity that encourages the development of communication skills utilizing one of these strategies. Be sure to be specific about which strategy you choose and what the activity is, and how these encourage the development of communication skills.
Dropbox 5: Redefining creativity and critical thinking

Revisit your original definition of creativity and critical thinking, submitted during week 1. In what ways has your learning in this course solidified those definitions? In what ways have those definitions changed? Include at least one reference to each of your texts in your discussion.


Csikszentmihalyi, Chapter 4

Discussion 12
Chapter 4 of Finding Flow discusses the interesting and perhaps even unexpected relationship between work and flow. Consider how and when you find flow in your own work, either a current position or one you’ve held in the past. Do/did you experience flow often or infrequently? How do you think that relates to your satisfaction with that work?
Discussion 13

Discuss what you learned from the course and how you will use the information in the future.

Final Project

Post your completed Creative Problem Solving Project to the Dropbox.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted. Late dropbox assignments are accepted with a penalty of 10% per day.  This penalty may be waived for extraordinary circumstances.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.