I Can Problem Solve (ICPS)

About This Program

Target Population: Low- and middle-income 4-12 year old students, including African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanic, and Asian populations

For children/adolescents ages: 4 – 12

Program Overview

I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) is a preventive and rehabilitative program designed to lessen disruptive behaviors. It is a cognitive approach that teaches children ages 4 to 12 how to think, not what to think, in ways that help them learn to resolve interpersonal problems that arise with peers and adults. They learn that behavior has causes, that people have feelings, and that there is more than one way to solve a problem. The curriculum is divided into two parts:

  • Pre-problem solving skills -- learning a problem solving vocabulary, identifying one's own and others' feelings, and considering another's point of view
  • Problem solving skills -- thinking of more than one solution, considering consequences, and age-appropriate sequencing and planning skills.

Adults learn a problem solving approach to handling conflicts and other problem situations that helps children associate their newly acquired problem solving skills with what they do and how they behave in real life.

Program Goals

The goals of I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) are:

  • Improve Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving (ICPS) skills:
    • Alternative solution thinking
    • Consequential thinking
    • Sequenced planning (means-ends thinking) skills, if 8-12 years old
  • Prevent or reduce early high-risk behaviors:
    • Physical, verbal, and relational aggression
    • Inability to wait and cope with frustration
    • Social withdrawal
  • Foster genuine empathy and concern for others
  • Foster positive peer relations
  • Increase cooperation and fairness that promote healthy relationships with peers and adults
  • Improve academic achievement as an outgrowth of less stress fostered by ICPS skills that allow children to concentrate on the task-oriented demands of the classroom

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for I Can Problem Solve (ICPS).

Essential Components

The essential components of I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) include:

  • ICPS is implemented by teachers with groups of children directly in the classroom, teaching them skills to solve interpersonal problems and that help guide their behavior, including disruptive behaviors. Groups of 8 or l0 children are ideal in preschool, and groups of l5 in kindergarten through grade 6. However, teachers have conducted the lessons with whole classes of 30 children.
  • School psychologists and guidance counselors are also trained to work directly with high-risk children to reinforce the problem solving concepts the children are learning in the classroom.
  • Formal Lessons in the Classroom
    • Children learn pre-problem solving and problem solving skills through games, stories, puppets, illustrations, and role-plays
    • An ICPS vocabulary sets the stage for problem solving thinking. For example, children play with the words "not", "same", and "different" in fun ways (e.g., "Johnny is painting. Is Peter painting or not painting?" "Are they doing the same thing or something different?") When a problem comes up, the child can be asked, "Do you and Peter see what happened the same way or a different way?" "Is that a good idea or not a good idea?" If the idea is not a good one, the child or children are asked, "Can you think of a different way to tell him what you want?"
    • Lessons are sequenced and build toward using vocabulary words to identify age-appropriate feelings, such as "Is Johnny happy or sad?" "Is Johnny feeling the same way or a different way from Robert?"
    • Using vocabulary words and feeling concepts, children practice the final problem solving skills to be learned: alternative solution, consequential, and age-appropriate sequenced planning skills.
    • Children learn to think of their own ideas to solve a problem in light of how they and others feel, what might happen next (consequences), and, if needed, to think of a different way to solve the same problem.
  • Interaction in the Classroom
    • Children learn to use ICPS concepts during everyday classroom interactions.
    • The program implementer learns a whole new way of communicating with students -- using special ICPS dialoguing techniques (problem-solving talk) when situations arise in real life with peers, siblings, parents, teachers, etc.
    • Four styles of communication are depicted on the rungs of a ladder, and adults enjoy "climbing up the ICPS ladder".
      • Rung 1: Power, including yelling, commanding, demanding
      • Rung 2: Suggestions, including statements such as "You should share your toys."
      • Rung 3: Explanations, such as, "You might hurt him if you hit him."
      • Rung 4: Problem Solving, turning statements into questions, such as, "How do you think Amy feels now?" "What happened when you (hit) her?" "How do you feel about that?" "Can you think of something different to do so you both won't feel that way, and that won't happen?”
      • Rungs 2 and 3 are positive, but the adult is doing the thinking and feeling for the child. On Rung 4, problem solving is a two-way dialogue, involves the child, and empowers the child by giving him/her skills to think for himself/herself. This way of communicating is called ICPS Dialoguing.
  • Integration into the Curriculum
    • In schools or settings where children are doing homework, they learn to use ICPS concepts as they work on math, reading, science, social studies, and other subjects. For example, children can use age-appropriate memory cards, where a match may be 5X5 for the card with the number 25, or Harrisburg, for the card with the word Pennsylvania. While practicing paying attention, they are also working with numbers, capitols, science concepts, or any topic relevant to the child or children in the group.
  • A companion program for parents, Raising a Thinking Child, is available, but is not part of the school-based ICPS program as highlighted here. The program helps parents teach their children interpersonal cognitive problem solving and social emotional skills. Raising a Thinking Child is available in English and Spanish.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Physical, verbal, and relational aggression; inability to wait and cope with frustration; social withdrawal; lack of empathy and good peer relations; ADHD; Asperger's Syndrome

Recommended Intensity:

For preschool children, ideal is daily for 20 minutes. If conducted in schools, kindergarten through grade 6 is usually 3 days per week, for one 40-minute period.

Recommended Duration:

The formal lessons last about three months in preschool, four months 3 times a week in grade school. The use of the program's problem solving approach, when real problems come up, continues throughout the year.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) includes a homework component:

The program does not include component called "homework," but activities are sent home with children from the Intermediate Elementary Manual.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

In preschool and kindergarten, a corner large enough for 8 to 15 children in an area free of distractions (e.g., books, toys, bulletin boards). In preschool and kindergarten, where a teacher-aide may be present, it is ideal for the aide to learn the program so as to keep ICPS Dialoguing -- use of the problem solving approach -- consistent when handling problems that come up in real life.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

None, as long as they are able to relate in positive ways with children.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Onsite for facilitators; train-the-trainer workshops onsite, nationwide

Number of days/hours:

Facilitator Workshops: 1 or 2 days; preferably 2 days
Train-the-Trainer Workshops: 3 days

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) as listed below:

Pre-implementation ICPS Readiness Checklists are available to measure and determine organizational or provider readiness for the I Can Problem Solve program.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) as listed below:

Dr. Myrna Shure, in partnership with ICPS Programs at the Center for Schools and Communities in Camp Hill, PA, a group of international trainers provides train-the-trainer workshops, personal coaching in individual classrooms, training of onsite coaches, consultation, and technical assistance as needed. Contact Stephanie Colvin-Roy at sroy@csc.csiu.org or (717) 763-1661 ext. 209.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) as listed below:

A fidelity checklist, ICPS Program Planner, (Pre/Post) Implementer Self Questionnaire and (Pre/Post) Childhood Behavior Rating Scale are all available to those attending a train-the-trainer workshop. The checklist consists of evaluating the extent to which a teacher, or adult implementer, teaches the concepts as intended and uses a problem-solving approach when handling problems that come up in real life.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) as listed below:

I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) training manuals are available for three age groups from Research Press at http://www.researchpress.com:

  • Preschool, Kindergarten and the Primary Grades, and Intermediate Elementary Grades. The training manuals can be ordered from the website, or by email at orders@researchpress.com or by calling 1-800-519-2707. Access to ordering can also be found at http://www.thinkingchild.com (home page) under the photos of the covers of the manuals.
  • A Facilitator’s Guide is available for educators who participate in the Train-the-Trainer workshops. This includes activities, power points, handouts, a mini-guide for administrators, counselors, school psychologists, nurses and other support personnel.
  • There is also an administrator's guide that describes the role of the principal in the implementation of ICPS in his/her school. It also describes roles for the other administrators and a school leadership team consisting of the school psychologist, counselor, nurse, social worker, or any other student-support personnel.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement I Can Problem Solve (ICPS).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Mannarino, A. P., Christy, M., Durlak, J. A., & Magnussen, M. G. (1982). Evaluation of social competence training in the schools. Journal of School Psychology, 20, 11-19.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 64


  • Age — 6.5-8.8 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 42 Males and 22 Females
  • Status — Participants were children at high-risk for behavioral problems in grades one through three.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study evaluated the use of a 14-week social competence program for high-risk children in first and third grades. Students with elevated levels of school maladjustment were randomly assigned to ICPS or control groups. Measures utilized include two measures from the Primary Mental Health Project – the AML, and the Classroom Adjustment Rating Scale (CARS). Results showed that the ICPS participants made significant gains in classroom adjustment as rated by teachers compared to the participants that were in the control group. Limitations included the lack of direct measurement of interpersonal problem-solving skills, the lack of an attention control, and possible teacher bias in ratings.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

dos Santos Elias, L. C., Marturano, E. M., de Almeida Mottoa, A. M., & Giurlani, A. G. (2003). Treating boys with low achievement and behavior problems: Comparison of two kinds of intervention. Psychological Reports, 92, 105-116.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 39


  • Age — 8-11 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 100% Male
  • Status — Participants were boys with behavior and academic problems in Southern Brazil referred by health professionals.

Location/Institution: Southern Brazil

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examined the effectiveness of a modified interpersonal problem solving skill program (ICPS) to improve behavior and academic achievement in a sample of elementary school boys who presented with behavior problems and poor school performance. Subjects were randomly assigned to the ICPS group or to a control Language Workshop group. Mothers of all subjects received training on handling child behavior programs. Measures utilized included the Rutter Child Scale A, the Brazilian School Achievement Test, and the Child’s Interpersonal Problem-solving Test. Results show that children in the ICPS group improved significantly more than the control group on most measures. Limitations include the small sample size, generalizability to other populations, and the possible impacts of the mothers’ training.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Shure, M. B. (1999). Preventing violence the problem solving way. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Washington, DC.

Shure, M. B. (1992). Children who behave differently, think differently: Handling conflicts the problem solving way. New Jersey Education Association Review, pp. 10-13.

Shure, M. B. (2007). Bullies and their victims: A problem solving approach to treatment and prevention. 2nd Edition. In S. Goldstein & Brooks, R. B. (Eds.). Understanding and managing children's classroom behavior (pp. 408-431). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Contact Information

Stephanie Colvin-Roy
Agency/Affiliation: Center for Schools and Communities/ICPS Programs
Website: www.icanproblemsolve.info
Phone: (717) 763-1661 x209
Fax: (717) 763-2083

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2020

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2020

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: October 2012