Problem-Based Teaching









Effective Creative Problem-Based Teaching and Learning Best Practices

The insightful work of John Hattie has forever changed how students learn to become creative problem-solvers.

By Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd

Director, Design Learning Network

Hattie’s ground-breaking research and synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses has taught us that creative problem-based teaching best practices (effect size, 0.65) are far more effective than creative learning strategies on their own (effect size, 0.35). We now know that well-facilitated creative thinking and problem-solving experiences can have significant impact on student learning outcomes (Hattie, 2009).

What level of impact might creative problem-based teaching and learning have on learners’
content knowledge as they engage in critical and innovative thinking?


Experiential Learning Yields High Impact on Student Outcomes

Creative problem-based teaching and learning best practices effectively prepares students to engage, process, and retain new curriculum via hands-on activities as learners directly address/access thinking and understandings. This mindful approach in turn results in high impact on student learning outcomes.

In high contrast, students who are required to engage in accurate scientific (fact-based) information and/or passive (non-interactive) such as videos or conceptual (theoretical) activities/assignments are far are less successful.

The positive effects of creative thinking and problem-solving instructional strategies are constant across all subject areas, mathematics being the greatest (0.89), followed by science (0.78), and reading (0.48). Please note that each discipline integrated the following high-impact learning strategies into their instructional practices: strategic/reflective thinking, gathering/defining information, building/showing understanding, and productive thinking.


Creative Problem-Based Instructional Takeaways

Teachers who engage their students in critical and innovative thinking experiences throughout the learning process, alongside a sense of purpose, yield the greatest impact on learning:

  • Ground learning experiences in training, practice, and timely opportunities to develop and self-regulation strategies and reflective thinking alongside the development of fluency and flexibility

  • Engage learners in meaningful (valuable) questions and relevant (purposeful) problems to solve as they prepare and generate novel (new) and/or innovative (original) ideas

  • Long-term effects of creative problem-based teaching and learning best practices enhance communication and critical thinking outcomes via public speaking, argumentative debate, and competitive forensics methods of creatively working through problems.