Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creative Problem Solving Strategy: SCAMPER (in the High School Art Classroom)


What is SCAMPER?

As art teachers, each Creative Challenge in our courses is, essentially, a "problem" to solve.

SCAMPER is a Creative Problem Solving strategy (CPS), created by Dr. Donald Treffinger and Carole Nassab of the Center for Creative Learning, that allows students to generate their own innovative solutions to a wide range of problems. The process literally helps them generate infinite possibilities so that they need never be at a loss for a creative solution to a problem again!

Plus, it not only works in art or just for students, but in any area in which people are solving problems with concrete outcomes--whether in school, business, or home life--including lesson and unit planning for teachers.

SCAMPER is an acronym. Each letter is the first letter of a process that one can apply to the problem. Following are a few examples that only scratch the surface. Use YOUR imagination:

S = Substitute (replace one thing with another, e.g. an object, a media, etc.)
C = Combine (combine objects or parts of objects, media, ideas, etc)
A = Adapt (borrow something from another context)
M = Magnify, Minify, Multiply (make some part larger, smaller or repeat it; zoom in or zoom out)
P = Put to Other Uses (change the intended function of an object, a tool, etc.)
E = Eliminate (remove some aspect or parts; cut something out; cut part of something away)
R = Rearrange/Reverse (move objects around; rotate or flip objects or the whole piece)

After taking a workshop about CPS taught by Chris Buhner, I introduced SCAMPER last year in my Art Foundations classes and, as I learned yesterday, the students still remembered what the letters stand for! I have found it to be an invaluable tool and hope you will too.

Illustration credit: Ryan R. (Advanced Art)

We called the Creative Challenge to which this piece was a response "The Beast Within." I challenged students to combine human bones drawn from actual skeletal models with drawings of the skeleton of their personal "power animal" (printed from the Internet) after briefly discussing this shamanistic belief. Students enjoyed identifying their power animal and I encouraged them to "push" the assignment beyond my parameters.

Ryan's finished mixed-media piece is a good example of how a student might use SCAMPER to arrive at an original solution. For example, in particular, he did the following:

C - combined drawings of muscles with the required drawings of the bones
M - magnified the muscle drawings
R - rearranged the muscle drawings by placing them in insets and moving them around the composition until he achieved the balance he sought

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