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The Importance of Complex Communication and Problem Solving Skills

01 March 2019

What is the purpose of education? A few answers spring to mind here. Of course, our students are here to achieve good grades in their academic studies that will move them on to the next stage, but the purpose of education is much more than that. It is for the preparation of citizenship, preparation for the world of work, for personal empowerment to make positive choices and to set aspirational goals.

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Here at BISB, we believe the purpose of education is to prepare young people for a life of learning. Earlier this academic year, our KS4 and Sixth Form students listened to an assembly with a focus on learning. The students listened to an important message about the crucial skill of learning how to learn, in particular, developing their complex communication and problem solving skills. The ability to critically analyse a problem, map out all its elements and then prepare a workable solution is one of the most valuable skills one can acquire in life. The purpose of the assembly was to encourage the students to find and take opportunities that will help them to develop these crucial skills, which are ever so important in the world of work beyond school. Students can find these opportunities in every subject lesson, guidance lesson and co-curricular activity that they take part in every single week.

How are these skills developed in lessons?

For example, in a Year 12 Chemistry lesson, students were asked to prove that, There are more atoms in a teaspoon of water than there are teaspoons of water in the Atlantic Ocean’. Students were challenged to work out what information they needed, where they could get the information from and which calculations they should use in order to successfully solve this problem. Many students were challenged and forced to work outside of their comfort zone, uneasy about making mistakes. Through guidance and encouragement, students persevered with this unfamiliar scenario and a few persistent students managed to see the challenge right to the end. Throughout this activity, students were exercising their problem solving skills and practising communicating complex ideas with their peers.

In guidance lessons, students are often faced with moral dilemmas and unfamiliar situations for them to discuss and formulate a workable solution. For example, as part of our preparation for life beyond school, Year 11 students have recently been looking at professional relationships. They were asked to role play a difficult scenario between an employer and an employee, paying close attention to the language that they used and the outcomes that could arise. Again, many students felt uncomfortable in this unfamiliar situation but experiences like these are enhancing their problem solving and complex communication skills.

How can you as a parent help?

As parents, you can help to develop your child’s complex communication skills simply by asking them what, how, why questions about their learning that day. Expect and demand that they respond with rich vocabulary and probe them with questions to move their learning from shallow to deep, to profound. Can your child articulate their learning fluently? Can they link their learning to what they had previously learned? Are they able to challenge what they have learned and create their own questions that will deepen their understanding? Such conversations could take place very casually such as on the journey home from school or over dinner.

As dedicated educators, we encourage students to seek out challenges and face them with perseverance and passion.  With your continued support at home we strive to ensure that our students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning. We encourage them to take opportunities that allow them to develop their complex communication and problem solving skills and to flourish as life-long learners.


Jenny Eyes
Teaching and Learning Lead Practitioner
Secondary Chemistry Teacher