The Rotman School of Management has teamed up with the Toronto District School Board to bring an integrative-thinking program, called I-Think, to high school (and eventually primary school) students. The Rotman School uses integrative thinking, a concept developed by dean Roger Martin, to teach MBA students that there’s an alternative to either-or choices. Students learn to make decisions that keep the positive aspects of both choices while getting rid of the bad.
The success of integrative thinking in the business world led Rotman to develop the program for students in kindergarten to Grade 12. I-Think began last year at a high school in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood and will be rolled out in public schools across Toronto over the next several years.
I-Think teaches students to think differently about challenges that aren’t easily solved in school or their personal lives. “How do we get them to use conflicting ideas and opposing tensions to reach a more creative solution?” says Ellie Avishai, an educator and Rotman grad who is the director of the Rotman I-Think Initiative. Avishai trained teachers and co-taught the program to a Grade 12 leadership class during the previous school year.
Avishai recently helped a student apply integrative thinking to a dilemma involving group work. If the high achiever did more than her share, the group would get a good grade. If she did just her share of the work, they would not excel. Either option was unsatisfactory to her. She and her classmates ended up creating a process that involved setting milestones and timelines for group projects. “They realized that if they invested time upfront to develop some processes with their team, they would have control over group work,” says Avishai. “Students reported an amazing change.”
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