Using Problem Solving as a discussion format

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djhester1940's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2008
Posts: 35
Using Problem Solving as a discussion format

Hi Chris,

My wife and I belong to an organization here in San Antonio called the Academy of Learning
in Retirement (ALIR). This organization is made up of retirees that are taking courses
that are offered by volunteer teachers. Last spring I taught a quite successful
course called "Patterns of Problem-Solving." A couple of weeks ago I
was asked if I would be interested in teaching a course in economics. I
explained that I was not an economist. My background is somewhat similar to
yours. I have a PhD in microbiology and taught for 10 years at the college
level and then left academe and took up computer programming. I recently
retired after working 20 years as a computer programmer/analyst developing
software for clinical laboratories.

Since I have taken your crash course, I suggested to ALIR that I use the crash course as the basis for the class in economics. I also suggested that I was willing
to begin this class immediately in view of all of the problems that we're
currently having with the economy. The organization was more than happy to
allow me to do this. So last Tuesday, October 28, I taught my first class using
your crash course. The classes last one hour and 15 minutes and I was able to
get through the first eight sections. The reaction of the class was extremely
positive. Although, I did hear a few gasps as the program proceeded.

Since I have a background in the theories and procedures of
problem-solving, I decided to present the course using the problem-solving
model. I got involved in the problem-solving model back in 1976 when I took a brief
course taught by Moshe Rubenstein from UCLA. This course was one of those
life-changing events for me. Your course is another one of those life changing

What I plan to do is to go through one or more sections and cast
the information as a problem that needs to be solved. The basic problem-solving
model that I use is illustrated below.

          WHAT IS    >----------------->> WHAT IS


The model has three major components:

  1. The
    "WHAT IS" situation which is described using a variety of models
    such as graphs, mathematical equations, verbal descriptions, and other
    appropriate models.
  2. The
    "WHAT IS DESIRED" component which again is described using a
    variety of models.
  3. And
    finally, of course, the solution (or several solutions) which is again
    described using a variety of models.

In class, I was using the Federal Reserve decision to lower
interest rates as an example of a problem. I suggested that Alan Greenspan's
testimony last week indicated just how important the "WHAT IS" and
the "WHAT IS DESIRED" models are when trying to solve a problem. This
example was perfect, especially since Greenspan actually testified that his
model was flawed. However, in the class I was stumped as to what the "WHAT
IS" situation and the "WHAT IS DESIRED" situation actually are at
this point in time. What I said was that the decrease in interest rates was a
solution for which I could not define the problem.

My point in all of this is that I would dearly love to see
some of the discussions in your reports, on the forum, and in the blog presented
in a problem-solving format. I myself have used this model in a variety of
situations. Computer programming lends itself quite nicely to using this
problem-solving approach especially when you're trying to get a client to
describe what it is that they want the software that I am trying to design and
implement should do.

I think it would be very interesting to know what problems
are being solved by the bailout for instance, or Fed interest rate
manipulation, or the bank buyout.

The feedback that I've gotten from the class using your
Crash Course has been extremely positive. Many attendees have said they learned
more about the current economic crisis in that hour and 15 minutes that we
spent watching your crash course than anything else they've ever seen. And this
was after only the first 8 sections.

Anyhow I thought I would put this out there for you to
consider as a possible way of bringing the discussion into a problem-solving

Your chapter 20 will lend itself very nicely to a wrapup on
my class using my problem-solving model and allowing each of the students to
assess their current way of thinking and to prepare for the future and changes
that are coming down the road.

I want to add my congratulations to those who have seen your
course and have been so complementary.

Thanks for your consideration,

Don Hester

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