Community Problem Solving Essay

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Introduction This module introduces Community Problem Solving as a teaching and learning strategy. As such, it is the ‘practical’ application module that builds on the ideas for citizenship education developed in Module 7. It also draws on the ideas about experiential, enquiry and values education, Future Problem Solving and learning outside the classroom in other modules. Community Problem Solving provides students with an opportunity to practice the skills that are needed to participate in finding solutions to the local issues that concern them.

This helps to develop the important citizenship objectives of learning for a sustainable future and integrates skills – for both students and teachers – of using experiential and enquiry-based strategies. It also integrates skills in the planning of values clarification and values analysis with the possible solutions so students can take action to help achieve a sustainable future. Objectives To develop an understanding of Community Problem Solving, especially as it may be used in education for sustainable futures. To identify the skills students need to participate in Community Problem Solving.

To explore questions and issues that may be encountered when teaching through Community Problem Solving. To identify teaching and learning strategies that may be used as part of a Community Problem Solving project. Activities 1. Local concerns 2. What is Community Problem Solving? 3. Developing students’ skills 4. Planning to use Community Problem Solving 5. Reflection References _____ (n. d. ) Active Citizenship Today: Field Guide for Teachers, Close Up Foundation, Alexandria VA, USA. Bardwell, L. , Monroe, M. and Tudor, M. 1994) Environmental Problem Solving: Theory, Practice and Possibilities in Environmental Education, North American Association for Environmental Education, Troy, Ohio. Bull, J. , Cromwell, M. , Cwikiel, W. , Di Chiro, G. , Guarina, J. , Rathje, R. , Stapp, W. , Wals, A. , and Youngquist, M. (1988) Education in Action: A Community Problem Solving Program for Schools, Thomson-Shore, Dexter, Michigan. Hungerford, H. et al. (1988) Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions: Skill Development Modules, Stripes Publishing Company, USA. Jensen, B.

B. and Schnack, K. (1997) The action competence approach in environmental education, Environmental Education Research, 3(2), pp. 162-178. OECD (1995) Environmental Education for the 21st Century, OECD, Paris. Stapp, W. B. , and Wals, A. E. J. (1994) An Action Research Approach to Environmental Problem Solving, in Bardwell, L. , Monroe, M. and Tudor, M. (1994) Environmental Problem Solving: Theory, Practice and Possibilities in Environmental Education, North American Association for Environmental Education, Troy, Ohio. Stapp, W. , Wals, A. and Stankorb, S. eds) (1996) Environmental Education for Empowerment, Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque. Wals, A. E. J. (1996) Back-alley sustainability and the role of environmental education, Local Environment, 1(3), pp. 299-316. Internet Sites Earth Force Youth Action Programme e-teen Youth Ventures On the Line – The Countries of The Greenwich Meridan Points of Light Youth Action Programme Credits This module was written for UNESCO by Bernard Cox, Margaret Calder and John Fien from material and activities originally written by Eureta Janse van Rensburg and Debbie Heck in Learning for a Sustainable Environment (UNESCO – ACEID).

Activity 1: Local concerns Begin by opening your learning journal for this activity. What would your community look like if it were on course to a sustainable future? Would there be: A clean and safe environment? A diverse and vibrant economy? Good housing for everyone? People who respect and support each other? Celebrations of cultural, historical and natural heritage? Co-operation and power-sharing between citizens and government? Affordable health care for everyone? Good schools? These are all features of a healthy and sustainable community.

Community Problem Solving is a strategy for working step-by-step towards this goal. This module begins with an exploration of issues and problems in your own local community. Q1: List five issues or problems you are concerned about in your community. [In Module 1 you identified local examples of nine major concerns (Question 5) and investigated one in detail through the process of Strategic Questioning. It may be useful to review your ideas from these activities as a starting point when making your list. Q2: What skills or experience do you have that might be helpful in finding a solution to any of these problems? Q3: What are you currently doing to help address any of these problems? Review reports of ‘success stories’ of young people and their teachers working to solve local community problems: cleaning up graffiti, saving energy, a river clean-up, providing recreation for senior citizens, publishing a community environmental inventory, and so on. Activity 2: What is Community Problem Solving? Begin by opening your learning journal for this activity. A Case Study of Community Problem Solving

Read a case study about the Park Beach Coastcare Project. This is an account of the way a group of students in Australia helped restore a beach near their school. Analysing the case study will help clarify what is involved in Community Problem Solving. Q4: Answer the following questions about the case study: What do you feel about the circumstances and events in the case study? What do you think were the learning outcomes for the student? In what ways are the teaching/learning strategies used in the case study different from strategies most often used in your school?

What skills did the teacher need to teach this way? What problems do you think the teachers in the case study might have faced when they included this activity as part of the curriculum? Community Problem Solving is a teaching and learning strategy that helps students learn to participate actively in addressing local community concerns, with a view to creating a more sustainable future. Steps in Community Problem Solving There are eight major steps for guiding students through the process of Community Problem Solving:

Taking action Selecting problems Investigating Planning actions Exploring community concerns Assessing and developing student skills Developing visions of a sustainable future Evaluating actions and changes All these steps are important but, no doubt, you noticed that the above list is not in a logical problem solving sequence. Re-arrange the steps into a more logical sequence. Adapting the Eight Steps to Local Circumstances The eight steps in Community Problem Solving do not have to be followed in a strict order.

For example, as students develop confidence in Community Problem Solving, the need to assess and develop their skills will diminish. And often, new issues for investigation will arise as you progress through the steps, requiring a recycling backwards and forwards through the steps. What is important is that the steps be used flexibly and be adapted to local circumstances, to your own students, and to your own approach to teaching. Q5: Review the case study from Modules 15 and 24 about a geography class in Nepal that worked in their home village to develop a local sustainable development plan.

Identify which of the eight steps were used and in what order. Q6: Use your understanding of the Park Beach and Nepal case studies to identify four distinctive features of Community Problem Solving as a teaching/learning strategy. Q7: Explain how you could use the Community Problem Solving approach to guide students through the study of a local issue. Review a teaching guide for student participation in solving local transport problems. Read about the Earth Force Community Action and Problem Solving Programme. Service Learning

Service learning – through which students volunteer to work on projects in their communities (not necessarily problem-solving ones) – has a long tradition in education in some countries. Examples of service learning projects include: volunteering to assist in a hospital, kindergarten or other community centre; working in a youth conservation project; and developing a community education and information campaign around a topical issue. Service learning is a common action that students and schools choose as a way of acting on – and achieving – the visions of a sustainable future that are developed during a Community Problem Solving project.

A recent evaluation of service learning revealed major impacts on students: Over 95% reported that they were satisfied with their community service experience and that the service they performed was helpful to the community and the individuals they served. Over 90% felt that all students should be encouraged to participate in community service. 87% believed that they learned a skill that will be useful in the future. 75% said that they learned more than in a typical class. Approximately 40% reported that the service experience helped them think about and/or learn more about a future career or job.

The impacts on the students’ attitudes to citizenship were also quite significant. Students showed positive, statistically significant impacts on three measures of civic development: acceptance of cultural diversity; service leadership; and the overall measure of civic attitudes. The impacts on civic/social attitudes were most evident among the high school students in the study. Participants in high school service-learning programs showed significant impacts on service leadership and the overall civic attitudes scale and a marginally significant impact on attitudes towards diversity.

Middle school students, in contrast, showed some gains in the measures of civic attitudes, but none were statistically significant. The largest impact on civic attitudes was on the measure of service leadership – the most direct measure of student attitudes towards service itself. Here, the students reported that they felt that: they were aware of needs in their communities; they believed that they could make a difference; they knew how to design and implement a service project; and they were committed to service now and later in life.

These are all good indicators of a very clear and positive contribution to active citizenship for a sustainable future. Source: Summary Report: National Evaluation of Learn and Serve America School and Community-Based Programs, prepared for The Corporation for National Service by The Center for Human Resources, Brandeis University, USA, 1999. Park Beach Coastcare Project, Australia The beach next to Sorrell State School in Australia was not an attractive place. The dunes were becoming eroded and the noxious weed, African Boneseed, was threatening to smother and replace the native vegetation.

People had left behind their rubbish and the public toilets were in a bad state of repair. The teachers and students of the school asked the local Surfboard Club for help and, together, they developed a Management Plan. The objectives of the Management Plan were to protect the sand dunes from erosion, remove weeds, and make the area safe and beautiful to visit. The actions recommended in their Plan included: Fencing off the dunes and constructing a walkway to the beach. Removing African boneseed and other weeds and replanting the area with local native plants. Building a viewing platform that includes access for people in wheel-chairs.

Beautifying the toilet area by painting murals on the water tanks. Planting shade trees around the carpark. Making a picnic and barbecue area. Providing more rubbish bins. Organising regular litter clean ups. Building a community notice board next to the car park. The students wrote letters and gave talks to local service clubs, such as Lions and Rotary, and to the local Sorrell Council. members of these groups combined to form the Park Beach Coastcare Group. They made applications to the government and received a grant for $5500 to implement their Management Plan.

In addition, the group organises regular community celebrations in the area for Clean Up Australia Day and Ocean Care Day. They have cleaned graffiti from the sandstone cliffs and are monitoring the effects of releasing African Boneseedeating beetles in the area. The co-ordinator of the Park Beach Coastcare Group said: The project offers a unique opportunity for the children at Sorrell School to learn about the local environment, the problems of environmental degradation and the care, patience and commitment required over a long period to rehabilitate damaged land.

The project also offers the opportunity for the school to coordinate resources and community groups to achieve their aims. Management Plans were collated and discussed at school. The children drew up the Management Plan for the area. Source: K. Willing, Tasmanian Coastcare Co-ordinator, Australia. Activity 3: Developing students’ skills Begin by opening your learning journal for this activity. Students use many skills when learning through Community Problem Solving. Four categories of skills are: Group process skills Information gathering skills Analysis and decision making skills Action and evaluation skills

Group process skills, for example: Taking different roles in a group and becoming a group leader when appropriate Listening to and comprehending ideas Expressing ideas clearly Considering and respecting others Providing constructive feedback to others Exploring group decision-making processes Monitoring ‘on-task’ behaviour of the group Monitoring the time allocated for tasks Information gathering skills, for example: Using the library, including print and electronic resources Designing data gathering strategies for the problem being investigated

Using scientific and social science techniques (eg. water quality testing, social survey) for investigation Identifying relevant agencies, organisations and members of the community Requesting information from sources by writing letters, making telephone inquiries, or using email Analysis and decision making skills, for example: Analysing data gathered using scientific and social science techniques Thinking critically and creatively about possible alternatives Considering the values of other people and their own Deciding on a course of action Justifying decisions

Action and evaluation skills, for example: Deciding on steps in an action plan Freely choosing to take actions Evaluating whether the changes that were the result of the actions, addressed the problem Source: Adapted from Bull, J. et al (1988) Education in Action: A Community Problem Solving Program for Schools, Thomson-Shore, Dexter, Michigan, pp. 267269. Teaching Skills It takes a skillful teacher to teach skills to students. Think back to a recent lesson when you taught your students a new skill. Recall what you did first, how you proceeded and what your students did in each step of the lesson.

For example, you might begin by analysing a skill to identify its parts and demonstrate them to students. Q8: List some steps you usually follow in teaching a new skill. Compare your ideas with a sample list. Teaching a Skill A sequence of procedures for teaching a skill might include: Analyse the skill to identify its parts. Motivate the students so they realise they need to learn the new skill. Demonstrate the whole skill, with students watching. Do a second demonstration, step by step, and comment on each step as you work. At the end of each step, students should carry out the same activity as demonstrated.

Observe the students at work and offer individual coaching where possible. Provide the students with opportunities to use the skill so they can perfect it. Encourage students to judge their own performances. Activity 4: Planning to use Community Problem Solving Begin by opening your learning journal for this activity. Some of the problems that might occur when using Community Problem Solving include: Some students might not be used to teachers asking them to choose the topic (ie. the local problem) they want to study. Some students could be puzzled when the teacher sets a problem but does not tell them the answer.

Some students lose their concentration when they are taken out of the classroom on fieldwork. Sometimes local problems of interest to students may be the cause of controversy in the community. Q9: Identify some teaching ideas that could prevent problems such as these. Selecting the Issue Selecting an issue that is practicable for students to investigate is a key aspect of planning for Community Problem Solving. The following criteria may help you – and your students – choose a possible project and location: The locations are readily accessible to students.

There is no serious risk to the safety of students at these places. The projects are within the range of ability of students. There is a genuine need in the community for this problem to be solved. Students believe the problem is significant to them. Q10: Rank these criteria in order of importance. It is important to bear these criteria for selecting problems in mind. However, experience indicates that students are most motivated when they work on problems of their own choosing. Q11: Identify suitable teaching and learning activities that could be used at each of the eight steps in Community Problem Solving. An example is given in your learning journal for each step. Activities explained in other modules could be adapted and modified for use in many of these steps. ] Download a set of booklets on how to teach for Community Problem Solving on issues such as: Monitoring local water quality. Developing a local bikeway plan. Activity 5: Reflection Begin by opening your learning journal for this activity. Completing the module: Look back through the activities and tasks to check that you have done them all and to change any that you think you can improve now that you have come to the end of the module.

Q12: How useful are the guidelines for teaching through Community Problem Solving in this sample lesson plan? Why? Q13: Identify how easy or difficult it will be for you to do introduce each of the eight steps in Community Problem Solving in your teaching situation. Q14: After you have trailed using Community Problem Solving with a class, review the process using questions such as these. What aspects of the Community Problem Solving project were really successful? Was there anything that you forgot to plan? Did your students need more preparation before the fieldwork? In what area?

What changes will you make to this project before doing it with another class? Activity 1 – Local concerns Q1: List five problems you are concerned about in your community. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Q2: What skills or experience do you have that might be helpful in finding a solution to any of these problems? Q3: What are you currently doing to help address any of these problems? Activity 2 – What is Community Problem Solving? Q4: Answer the following questions about the case study. What do you feel about the circumstances and events in the case study? What do you think were the learning outcomes for the student?

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 In what ways are the teaching/learning strategies used in the case study different from strategies most often used in your school? What skills did the teacher need to teach this way? What problems do you think the teachers in the case study might have faced when they included this activity as part of the curriculum? Q5: Identify which of the eight steps of Community Problem Solving that were used and in what order. Q6: Use your understanding of the Park Beach and Nepal case studies to identify four distinctive features of Community Problem Solving as a eaching/learning strategy. 1. 2. 3. 4. Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Q7: Answer the following questions to plan a Community Problem Solving project for students in one of the classes you teach. Exploring Community Problem Solving Name a problem in your community that you think students would be interested in solving. Selecting a problem Why is this important to your community? Do your students have the skills to be able to tackle this problem at the present time? Do you have time to undertake the entire Community Problem Solving process for this problem, or might a smaller problem be better to begin with?

Evaluating and developing student skills What skills do your students need to undertake Community Problem Solving? What kinds of guidance might you need to provide? Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Investigating What is the current status of this problem in the community? Are there any conflicts of interest among groups in the community over this problem? If so, what are they? How can decisions be made to resolve the issue? Developing visions What are students’ visions for the future in relation to this problem? What are the alternatives?

Which vision do they prefer and why? Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Planning actions What changes will bring the situation closer to their visions of a sustainable future? What barriers must be overcome to allow these changes to take place? List the steps that must be taken to make the changes. This is the plan of action. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Others How can the plan of action be evaluated? Taking actions How will the planned actions solve the problem? What is the role of students in deciding on these actions? Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001

Evaluating actions and changes What actions were taken? What changes resulted? To what extent are these changes the same as the vision? How were barriers overcome? What was learnt from Community Problem Solving? Activity 3 – Developing students’ skills Q8: List the steps you usually follow in teaching a new skill. Activity 4 – Planning to use Community Problem Solving Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Q9: Identify some teaching ideas that could anticipate and prevent problems such as: Problem Some students might not be used to teachers asking them to choose the topic (i. e. he local problem) they want to study. Some students could be puzzled when the teacher sets a problem but does not tell them the answer. Some students lose their concentration when they are taken out of the classroom on fieldwork. Sometimes local problems of interest to students may be the cause of controversy in the community. (Can you anticipate any other problems? ) Teaching ideas Q10: Rank criteria for selecting an issue in order of importance. Rank 1 = most important 5 = least important The locations are readily accessible to students. There is no serious risk to the safety of students at these places.

The projects are within the range of ability of students. There is a genuine need in the community for this problem to be solved. Students believe the problem is significant to them. Q11: Identify suitable teaching and learning activities that could be used at each of the 8 Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 steps in Community Problem Solving. Activities explained in other modules could be adapted and modified for use in many of these steps. Steps 1. Exploring Community Problem Solving Teaching and Learning Activities Tell a story about how a community group solved a problem (Module 19). 2. Selecting a problem Strategic Questioning (Module 1). * 3. Evaluating and developing student skills Use a role play to develop student skills in values analysis (Module 20). * 4. Investigating Students work in pairs to investigate changes in the community and how various people feel about them (Modules 21, 24). * 5. Developing visions Use the ‘preferable’ and ‘probable’ futures exercise (Module 2) to help students develop visions about the future. * 6. Planning actions Use Future Problem Solving strategies to develop an action plan (Module 23). * 7.

Taking actions Class presents their Action Plan to the local mayor (Module 24). * 8. Evaluating actions and changes Invite a guest from the community to share how the changes have affected him or her. * Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Activity 5 – Reflection Q12: How useful do you find the guidelines for teaching through Community Problem Solving in this sample lesson plan? Why? Q13: Identify how easy or difficult it will be for you to do introduce each of the eight steps in Community Problem Solving in your teaching situation.

Q14: After you have trialed using Community Problem Solving with a class, review the process using questions such as these. What aspects of the Community Problem Solving project were really successful? Was there anything that you forgot to plan? Did your students need more preparation before the fieldwork? In what area? What changes will you make to this project before doing it with another class? Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001 Other comments/observations? Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future ? UNESCO 2001

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