A teaching sequence

Ross Woods, 2019

This is a sequence for leading a group of professionals to explore and resolve a common major problem.

Reaction to topic

I want students to engage as soon as possible, and getting their personal views is often one of the most effective ways to do so. In discussion, let students create a variety of opinion on the nature of the problem, its causes, and its probable effects.

What is the problem? It might not be obvious, especially if students could interpret the problem and its causes can be in many ways. At this stage, there is no need to provide solutions. In practice however, some students jump to conclusions, and others generate good ideas for solutions quite quickly.

Write a scenario: “What would you do?”

I want to generate useful materials to make this topic easier to teach in future. I set an assignment where each student must write a scenario. Each scenario describes a serious situation where one faces a dilemma with no easy solution. It should be based on realistic cases, but must be fictional and not libellous. It usually helps to have at least two equally weighted solutions, but neither of them is obviously correct.

Evidence for solutions

At this stage, students gather and collate evidence. Students most easily want to debate their opinions, but this does not necessarily lead to solutions at this stage. For example, in a course in Christian ministry, the main sources of information are as follows:
1. Reviewing literature
2. Describe instances of the problem as document them as case studies.
3. Consider biblical teaching (identify relevant Bible passages and exegete them).

Analyze the evidence and draw conclusions

Analyze the evidence, evaluate opinion, draw conclusions, and define them as closely as possible. Students might likely create a range of conclusions, not just one. Help students to qualify their conclusions, that is, under what conditions are they true? Formulate a solution. In many cases, it won’t be “one size fits all.” It might be qualified in many ways or be multifaceted.


1. Discuss application. Resolving the problem in practice is usually more difficult that creating solutions in armchair theory. Get students to consider the range of variables that will affect implementation.
2. What other factors are involved? Are there wider psychological, social or ethical dimensions to the problem?
3. What other issues arise from this discussion? Are some aspects left unresolved?
4. In what ways does this help you grow as a person?

What kinds of progress in knowledge have we made?

Has this resulted in actual research value, and if so, of what kind:
1. Descriptive only (no real progress)
2. Insightful description
3. Prescriptive: It produced sets principles or strategies for future practice
4. Normative: It produced sets standards for future practice.
5. If we have made progress, it it a contribution to professional practice or to theory? Is its relevance local or more universal?