Problem Solving Prerequisites
• Solving problems requires our attention and effort. If we have a stake in
finding a solution, we are generally more interested in spending the
time, energy, and resources to get the job done.
• What happens when people feel like the problem
belongs to someone else but has little or no impact
on them personally? For example, the family that has plenty of
money and eats great dinners every night is asked to help solve the
problem of hunger in America. How does this make the
problem of hunger more difficult to solve?
Meet in Small Groups
• Identify some conditions in our world or country that
need to be improved?
• Select and discuss three of these issues.
• Write a clear problem statement for one of the issues
that you have identified.
• Share you problem statement with the class.
Does anybody really care about
solving the problem you identified?
• How do we get other people to care about solving
important problems that do not affect them directly?
• Can people learn to care more about their
• What might be done to get people to become more
aware of how people in a community are
• How is our world interconnected?
Is it possible to know how another
person feels? How can you find out
how another person feels?
Empathy is the term that can be used to
explain an individual’s ability to know how
someone else feels.
We can offer comparisons or analogies to
improve empathy. Would a bully listen to the
message in this cartoon? Why? Why not?
How much we really care about others can be
measured on a continuum from no empathy to
complete empathy for others. Different people
experience empathy to different degrees and levels.
Some people care a lot about improving our public
schools. If they are served by a school that is old and
dilapidated and has to use substitute teachers frequently
because the school is unable to attract qualified
teachers, they are likely to be very adamant about
wanting the problem of poor schools to be solved.
Many people who understand how students and parents feel
about wanting better schools are also supportive of efforts
to solve the problem of improving our public schools. They
are supportive because they have the ability to “walk a mile
in their shoes”. But other people do not always have this
ability to care about other people’s issues.
Where does the ability to empathize with other
people’s problems come from?
Meet in small groups and discuss the following questions.
• 1. Why do you think that the ability to care about
somebody else’s problems develops in some
personalities but not others?
• 2. Does the social and psychological environment that
individuals grow up in have an impact on the
development of empathy? Explain
Social scientists know that when people seem not
to care very much about a problem that plagues
others far more than it affects them, they tend to
ignore serious efforts to solve the problem.
American schools are ranked far lower that many schools in
countries through out the world even though we are one of the
wealthiest countries in the world.
Raise your hand if you believe that we could have better
Why do you think it is possible for America to have
If it is possible, what keeps us from solving the problem?
Perceptions and Priorities
People are not very good problem solvers when they do not
view themselves as stakeholders. They are even less
interested in solving a problem when they are unable to
perceive and feel the frustration of those who will benefit
the most from solving the problem.
Having empathy for other people’s issues enables us to be
far better problem solvers. If too few people care enough
about a problem that affects the community, the problem
will not be solved. However, many people will complain
about the problem year after year, and yet, the problem
will remain unfixed.
Meet in Small Groups and Discuss
What could be done to get our country,
our state, and our community to care
enough about our schools to make
significant improvements to the quality
of education for all students?
List and discuss three important steps
that might motivate people to take
action on this problem.
Report Back to the Class
•Share your groups ideas about this issue.
•Which ideas might result in the best
•Take Notes and Prepare to Write
Write a paragraph with a minimum of five
sentences discussing the best ways to get
people to support major improvements in our
schools across the state. Identify a strategy
that could be used to motivate citizens to
support our schools.
In order to become effective problem solvers, it is
important to understand the complexity of the
problem and the consequences of the solutions.
For example, many people who are not directly affected by
the prospect of improving public schools tend to view the
problem in simplistic fashion. They realize that students
might benefit from some changes or modifications in public
education. However, they often fail to understand how
solving educational problems also improves our economy
and raises our standard of living which provides direct
benefits to all Americans.
In a society where some people lack the empathy to want
to help fix someone else’s problem, it becomes necessary
to educate them about how the solutions to the problem
will provide positive consequences for everyone’s benefit.
Effective problem solving requires teaching others how to
see all of the potential consequences, good and bad, of
solving community problems together.
Problem solving requires some people to step up and provide leadership by
taking a proactive approach to getting apathetic members of the community to
see how they will benefit from finding solutions to the problem. Since some
people lack the empathy to identify with other people’s issues, those problem
solvers who are motivated must offer the leadership to demonstrate to the
entire community how everyone will benefit to some degree by solving a
Prepare to practice listening skills.
• The next slide will ask you to meet in groups and
address a question.
• As you participate, remember to ask clarifying questions
as ideas and examples are discussed by other group
members. Questions such as, “What do you mean by
that?”, “Can you explain that further”?, “Can you give us
• Also, try to add to (piggyback) someone else’s idea by
giving them credit for their idea and then adding to it
with your suggestion.
Meet in Small Groups
• Discuss why you think “Walking a Mile in
Someone’s Shoes” is important when dealing with
certain issues and problems.
• Create several examples of situations that are
easier to discuss with people who have walked a
mile in your shoes.
• Prepare to share your ideas with the class.
Do you agree that people should be judged by their
present not their past? Why?
Are there situations where the past must be
considered to ensure public safety?
Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Are there situations where society needs to judge
someone’s path regardless of this statement?
Why do you think this is important?
Why do you think that some people
still ignore this advice?
Sometimes problems seem baffling. Why would a country that has
great wealth allow so many children to live in poverty during their
entire childhood? Why do you think that is the case?
Children and the elderly are the ones
that are most often going to bed at
night without eating.
If not enough people care about a problem, the
problem doesn’t get solved. Are most people just
cold and inconsiderate or do they not see the
negative consequences of poverty often enough to
develop a caring attitude? What do you think?
Examine the graph.
Has rural poverty increased or decreased since
Which group had the highest rate of poverty in
Other issues such as improving
education and decreasing unemployment
contribute to the problem of poverty.
Meet in small groups and discuss.
•Should everyone who graduates from high
school be guaranteed a job?
•Should there be a guaranteed minimum
wage for everyone who works?
Write a paragraph discussing why
we should or should not guarantee a
job to every high school graduate.
Clearly express you reasons why?
•Who do you think cares the most about
fixing the unemployment problem?
•Do you think that a lack of empathy
makes the problem harder to solve?
Is air and water pollution a serious
problem for our country?
Why do you think that more hasn’t been
done to reduce our pollution problems?
Where is the highest level of dangerous
pollution found? Who is more likely to
live in the smoggiest areas?
What type of health problems will the residents in
this area be at increased risk to develop?
In which area of the city would more people be
concerned about reducing air pollution?
In order to be better problem solvers, it is
important to develop good listening skills and to
improve our ability to empathize with those who
may be facing serious problems.
The following questions and statements are good
ways to develop empathy for other people’s
• What would you like me to know about the issue you are
• I think I see where you are coming from.
• I understand how frustrating this is for you.
• What can I do to be more helpful?
Let’s do a role play. We need three volunteers. One of
you will pretend to be an undocumented immigrant
who is worried about deportation. One of you wants
undocumented immigrants sent back to their home
country. The third volunteer uses the following
questions to help understand how the first volunteer
feels about the issue.
The bottom line about problem solving is that most community or
global problems require a cooperative effort in order to agree upon
solutions that serve the greater good. Building empathy and
demonstrating how the majority of people will benefit in the long run
when schools are better or poverty is reduced will bring more stake
holders to the problem solving table.