What's Your Problem- (Ginger Bandoni)

Lesson plan for High School Business/Graphic Design/Computers

Duration:  52 minutes

Principals Covered:  By brainstorming about problems the students wish to solve at their school, students will be able analyze approaches towards practical solutions using problem solving models and drawing on strategies like the social science of behavioral change.  This lesson can build into a field study where proposed solutions are tested and proposed to the school, or a graphic design project where solutions are proposed using Google Sketchup or Powerpoint.

California Content Standards Addressed:

2- Communications

(2.5) Deliver persuasive arguments (including evaluation and analysis of problems and solutions and causes and effects):

a)Structure ideas and arguments in a coherent, logical fashion.

b)Use rhetorical devices to support assertions (e.g. by appeal to logic through reasoning; case study)

c)Clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, expressions of commonly accepted beliefs, and logical reasoning

d)Anticipate and address the listener’s concerns and counterarguments.

5 – Problem solving and critical thinking

(5.1) Apply appropriate problem-solving strategies and critical thinking skill to work-related issues and tasks

(5.2)  Understand the systematic problem-solving models that incorporate input, process, outcome, and feedback components.

(5.3)  Use critical thinking skills to make informed decisions and solve problems.



Computers with Internet access; copies of the What’s Your Problem? handout (PDF); copies of How to Solve It handout (PDF); overhead plugged into computer & linked to “Lunch Line Redesign.”

Student Prior Knowledge:

The students have been using Google Sketchup to draw their school, and have been answering prompts about how they would change certain buildings and areas either aesthetically or functionally.  This lesson builds on their problem solving by giving them a method to organize and analyze possible solutions.  It introduces the element of human behavior into their analysis of problems.  As well, it will be an segue into their first group project.  Students are also versed in Powerpoint and MS Word basics.


Warmup.  Tell students they will now consider a problem they recently confronted and make flow charts showing all the possible solutions they considered, including the final “fix”.  This helps them to examine the critical thinking skills they already use to solve everyday problems.  Prompt them with the handout “What’s Your Problem” about choosing when to do their homework.  They can choose another topic as well, like choosing a Halloween costume, etc. 

Invite students to share their steps in thinking that led them to their solution, and reflect on the difference between those that seemed feasible but were not effective in the long run.  Ask:  What did you need to know about yourself and the task or problem in order to solve it successfully?  What else did you need to know, about things like available resources, environment, etc?  What is the difference between a quick fix and a successful solution?

OVERHEAD EXAMPLE:  “Lunch Line Redesign,” Brian Wansink, David R. Just and Joe McKendry illustrate some tactics that have been used to influence children to make more healthful choices in the school cafeteria.  Banning fast food can backfire, when children start to bring their own lunch, skip it altogether, or even get pizzas delivered to the side door.  A smarter lunchroom nudges students toward better choices by just changing the way in which their options are presented. 


Crowdsourcing/Collaboration (Wikis, polls, social networks)

Behavioral Change (see "Lunch Line Redesign")

Positive Deviance (Focusing on positive behaviors or results)


1.       How does food placement – both location and type of display – seem to affect the choices students make in the cafeteria?

2.       How to direct appeals, in the form of questions from cafeteria workers and descriptive text, seem to affect choice?

3.       How would you describe and categorize the other strategies

4.       Why do you think these strategies resulted in more students buying more healthful foods?

5.       Which of these tactics do you think might work in our own cafeteria?  Why?

Activity.  Students will now brainstorm problems in the school, then choose on to try to solve.  Encourage students to think in categories, such as:

·         Technology; cell phones as learning tools

·         Design; desks and workstations

·         Resource management; energy efficiency

·         Use of classrooms and public spaces; overcrowding

·         Environmentalism; recycling

·         Health and hygiene; hand sanitizers

·         School culture; bullying and cyberbullying

·         School-related problems, like chronic lack of sleep among students

Groupwork.  After brainstorming, have the class vote on one problem to tackle as a group.  Then, put the students into groups to identify, research, and propose a viable and innovative solution for a problem.  Give them an overview of George Polya’s strategy:

·         Understand the problem and identify its components

·         Collect data from various sources

·         Devise a Plan

·         Carry Out the Plan

·         Checking the Result
Students then pitch their solution, or a grab bag of solutions, by choosing a presentation medium:  Google Sketchup, Powerpoint, or MS Word.
Norman Herr,
Nov 4, 2010, 1:20 PM
Norman Herr,
Nov 4, 2010, 1:20 PM