Resource 1: Problem Solving and Creativity

Teacher resource to support teaching approaches

Problem solving and creativity

Through being resourceful and engaging and providing variety, you will be able to motivate your students. If you are willing and able to solve problems and be creative, you will be able to help your students develop these skills. And it is not as difficult as it might seem!


Creativity is about the ability to think. It is not just about remembering, but also applying, suggesting, extending, modelling, and offering alternatives. It is something that you can model for your students. Students need to be encouraged to think differently and come up with original ideas. They also need to feel confident in the reception they will get before they make such suggestions.

Some teachers will naturally be very creative, but some will not – and that is fine as long as you are resourceful and willing to try new ideas. A creative teacher, for example, will take the TESSA Secondary Science units and apply the strategies we suggest to different contexts. You could use news items from radio, television or newspapers and relate this to the science you are teaching. You can set open-ended tasks and allow students to make choices about how they present their work. You may take some risks in your teaching. Above all, you will create an atmosphere of excitement and enquiry with dramatic demonstrations, enthusiasm or amazing and unbelievable facts.

Strategies to promote creativity

Get students to:

  • write a story to illustrate a scientific principle
  • draw a picture to illustrate a scientific principle
  • make up a play
  • make a model
  • take part in a role play (e.g. be the particles in a solid, liquid or gas)
  • make up a poem or a rap
  • think up alternative explanations for something they see
  • write a letter or newspaper article or podcast.

Problem solving

Helping students to develop problem-solving skills is a frequently cited goal of science teachers. As with creativity, you can model these skills in your own classroom. For example, if you can’t answer a student’s question, you can come back next lesson with a solution and explain how you worked it out and why you found it hard. Being able to solve problems involves developing thinking skills. There are various strategies that you can adopt to help children develop these skills (Wellington and Ireson, 2008):

  • Encouraging student-generated questions. The act of asking questions requires engagement and creative thought, two core cognitive strategies.
  • Being clear about ‘purpose’. Students should be encouraged to ask: what is this all about?’ ‘What does this relate to?’ ‘Why do you want us to do this?’ – rather than embark on activities in an unthinking, recipe-following fashion.
  • Setting open-ended activities. Teachers should set activities that can be tackled in a variety of ways so that children have to think about how they will tackle the problem.
  • Planning. Teachers need to provide opportunities for children to plan their problem-solving strategy in a systematic way.
  • Paraphrasing. It is well known that you really get to know and understand ideas when you try to teach them to someone else. Giving children opportunity to paraphrase an explanation will help them to understand difficult ideas and to be aware of their own learning.
  • Learning to learn (metacognition). Teachers can encourage children to become more conscious of their learning by getting them to think about why they don’t understand and what strategies helped them that might be useful in the future.


Wellington, J. and Ireson, G. (2008) Science learning, Science teaching. Abingdon: Routledge.

3. Setting open-ended tasks

Resource 2: Promoting Cross-curricular links and literacy skills