Generating & Analyzing Possible Solutions
Generating and Analyzing Possible Solutions
Once the students have acquired the background information needed to begin answering their supporting and organizing questions, they should work in small groups or as a whole class to generate possible solutions. The students should list their ideas for solutions and develop ways to test their hypothesis.
For instance, the students may decide that the reason there are so few plants and animals on the school grounds is that the grounds do not contain a healthy environment for the plants and animals to live. A possible solution would to be to create a habitat for plants and animals around the school campus. The students could create a small wetland area on the schoolyard or near the school's property.
Often, the process of generating and implementing a solution sets into motion another organizing question and set of supporting questions. As in the example above, if students should decide to create a wetland area, their new organizing question would be: "How can we establish and maintain a wetland habitat in our schoolyard?" The supporting questions could include
- Where is the best spot for a wetland?
- What kinds of plants will we need?
- How will we raise money to purchase plants we need?
Even after a solution has been implemented, the learning can continue. The students should analyze their solutions to see if they have determined an answer to the problem. If they find that the problem still exists, they will need to return to the identifying information and resources and work through the process again. If they decide that they have determined a solution to the problem, then they may move on to the next step in the process.
For example, to solve the biodiversity problem on their school grounds, a group of students restored a small wetland area. To see if their project had worked, the students went back a month later and counted the number of animals living in the restored area. They found that they now had several new species living on their school grounds. From this they determined that their hypothesis was correct: the reason for the lack of animals on their school grounds was that there was no nurturing place for the animals to live.
Throughout the process of generating and analyzing solutions, teachers play an important facilitation role by forming groups, observing, moderating, answering questions, encouraging the flow of ideas, and synthesizing findings. Teachers must be careful to put together groups that best benefit the learner by taking into account students' interests, abilities, and behaviors.
With their many opportunities for group work, watershed lessons and projects offer excellent contexts for students to develop positive interpersonal relations skills and practice cooperative learning. Research presented by Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec suggests that there are three basic components of cooperative learning:
Positive interdependence. Students must recognize that they need one another to complete the task. That is, they can reach their learning goals if and only if all other students in the group reach their learning goals too.
Face-to-face interaction. Students must be in situations where they help one another learn and complete the learning task. That is, they explain, discuss, teach, and make connections among concepts.
Individual accountability. Groups are designed to help everyone learn, but individual students have the ultimate responsibility for their own learning. One of the concerns in the use of small groups is the so-called "hitchhiker" problem, where certain students do the majority of the work and assessment. Teachers who spend time explaining the reasons for cooperative group work and who do not grade on a curve do not often report the hitchhiker problem.
Teacher Planning Activities
Lessons from the Bay Lesson Plans:
The Lesson Plans section of Lessons from the Bay is a resource for investigations and activities a teacher may want to use with the students. Each lesson may be used as is, adapted, or used as a template for the teacher's own activities and investigations.
Continuing Interdisciplinary Connections:
As students begin to generate and analyze possible solutions, you should return to your own Interdisciplinary Connections chart PDF • Word, concentrating on the "Activity or Investigation" column.
Testing the Hypothesis:
Students should continue to document their group's findings by listing ideas for testing their hypothesis. Other student activities are suggested in the Lesson Plans.