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Pick a problem not a major - updated 2/27 insights and challenges

Students plan their educational pathway around solving a problem in society rather than a particular major or career outcome

Photo of Terry Hosler
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Concept and Need

In thinking about reimagining Higher Education, we need to start with a change in mindset on approach. By changing the paradigm from narrowing a student’s focus to broadening possible pathways to solving problems, we empower students and build the concepts of transferable skills rather than single focus pathways.

Have you heard of Jaime Casap? He is the Global Education Evangelist with Google.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClqlcctqZTk&t=4s 

http://www.nobleimpact.org/2015/07/23/stop-asking-kids-what-they-want-to-be-when-they-grow-up/

His approach and many at Google is exactly this: Stop asking students what they want to be or major in and start asking 'What problem do you want to solve?' Then, help them find the pathway to getting the skills, training, classes and connections they need to do exactly that.

By utilizing a 'mixed method' approach, students can tap into resources both locally and online to develop a broader pathway and explore more ways to get to the career they want to achieve through higher education or even before.

Human connection is very important here as most students look at a very linear/direct approach to a career rather than examining the skills and knowledge needed to help them in their efforts in 'problem-solving' - identifying transferable skills. All learners, from pre-k to lifelong, normally need advisement or help in the protocol and access pathways and to knowing how to reach beyond the traditional to the innovative.

A problem students often encounter when they have a very narrow focus is that when things go awry, they run into a wall such as not being admitted to a program or needing to repeat a class, they don’t have any wiggle room in career options. An example might be the large number of people who end up working in a field or job not directly related to their academic training. By starting with a broader approach to finding a ‘passion point’ students are more ready to adjust and know they can still be part of the team impacting a ‘solution’.

A rising trend in medical or engineering schools is to view candidates with favor who think outside the box. For example: If you at looking for the best candidate for medical school to look at innovation and broad approach possibilities in the changing landscape of medicine, do you choose from the 400 applicants with biology degrees or maybe an equally qualified applicant from bio-engineering or even communication who can bring a new approach to resolving patient care and research.

This 'starting point' opens the higher education window to a multisource approach. Students have a societal contribution and a purpose in mind from the beginning. They are empowered to know they can be involved in the solution regardless of their background by tapping into their strengths.

This could be linked as well with Industry/Company-sponsored learning opportunities with students who are all working toward the same goals.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

The idea is to reset and support a student's approach to Higher Education. Stakeholders would be Schools (K-12), Higher Education Institutions, Advisors/Counselors, Industry and Governments. Working with school systems and institutions in our service region to help students find their passion by broadening their approach to education. Through the cornerstone question – ‘What problem do you want to solve?’, we will encourage college and career exploration throughout the educational pipeline.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Input on how to reset the approach so that students could more easily develop networks of mentors in the fields or learn from those 'farther down the road of the solution'. A number of ideas have strengthened the approach and input would help with the synergy for an overall impact on the Higher Education and Vocational/Technical, Industrial communities.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will be working with school systems and institutions in our service region to help students find their passion through broadening their approach to education. The question - What problem do you want to help solve? will be a discussion prompt to encourage college and career exploration throughout the educational pipeline. See attached feedback document outlining 3 current prototypes.

Tell us about your work experience:

Our organization, Partners for Education at Berea College has a multifaceted decades long mission of educational outreach to Appalachian rural communities of Kentucky and are working heavily with primarily low-income community school districts and agencies serving our students and families. Berea College, founded in 1855, offers a high-quality education to bright and talented students who have limited economic resources. 100% of Berea students receive a full tuition scholarship.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? 2-3 sentences.

Confining students to declare a major or single career path puts blinders on their consideration of the skills, experience and abilities needed for a focused approach to problem solving. By asking what problem they would like to help solve as a guidance tool allows them some flexibility in career pathways while still gaining a focus toward a purposeful and passionate pursuit in higher education and beyond.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Students feel currently declare a single major or career without fostering the resiliencies of identifying transferable skills and problem-solving approaches to educational and career development and pursuits.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

This idea is more of a paradigm shift than a marketable app or interest inventory. It is a guidance and development framework to lead discussion and advisement in student development across the learning spectrum. Although a marketable curriculum and/or professional development trainings could be developed, the simplicity of the idea is easy of use without cost or a lot of training.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

The impact could be measured through a number of formats, for example: 1. The increase of students of all ages engaged in civic involvement and team projects. 2. Surveys with education professionals on the use and impact. 3. Development and enhancement of curriculums based on the concept. 4. Tracking students in this framework in their grit, resiliency and persistence toward their educational goal. 5. Feedback from students longitudinally on how the idea assists their progress/approach.

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

The idea is very easily transferable as simply a discussion prompt or a question to open advisement/guidance or even classroom discussions. It can be used in a large amount of variations, situations and group sizes.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Our first steps are to work with college access and support personnel on using the question as a discussion/guidance prompt with small, targeted groups and individual students on multiple educational levels in our region of initial influence, Eastern Kentucky's Appalachian schools and Higher educational institutions, as well as with efforts by OpenIDEO members. Expansion will then focus on sharing the concept with regional and national opportunities through conferences and workshops.
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Attachments (4)

Insights-Barriers - Pick a Problem.pdf

Brief discussion of Insights, Barriers, Challenges and Approach Priorities

User Experience Map - Pick a Problem.pdf

Storyboard comparing two students utilizing traditional vs. Problem-Solving approach.

Feedback - Pick a Problem.pdf

Feedback responses from discussion groups, individual responses and field professionals

Prototype - Pick a Problem.pdf

Descriptions of 3 small prototypes utilizing the approach idea

98 comments

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Photo of Kaye Han
Team

Hi Terry, conceptually this idea is very attractive. I love it! Upon reading the details of its execution, I think there is some synergy with this and entrepreneurship courses - essentially teaching the fundamentals of solving problems. The question of curriculum becomes a little more hazy when somebody chooses a 'problem'. It would be excellent if there was an example. E.g. If I chose 'obesity' as my problem, what would that look like in curriculum and assessment? How would a university configure their faculties to cater for this? A person working to solve obesity would need to be flipping between classes in the science, to psychology, and likely to education. Anyway, just some food for thought. :)

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Hi Rob
Thanks for the interest in our idea and, yes, entrepreneurship courses are a great example of a problem-solving approach. I love the word ‘synergy’ as a description. That is exactly what is going on in this proposed framework. Students learn that solutions are very rarely made by a single individual or in a vacuum. But rather by connecting the energies, ideas and analysis of many to arrive at the solution. Rather like how Google combines millions of servers to provide answers and pathways to explore in a search engine.
You may want to take a look at the very brief example found in our storyboard of the User Journey or as cited in a number of the comments below. I agree that as the idea develops specific examples would assist in developing the structure, rubrics and curriculum or guides. The paradigm is designed to be fluid and adaptable to a student’s interests and resources. The main starting point is from a guidance or advisement point of approach but could be utilized in most interfaces with students in any part of the learning continuum or work environment.
I do like your example, and it would be exactly that – gaining skills and knowledge in a number of disciplines to design the collection of abilities and contacts a student needs to ‘get the job done’ by maintaining/achieving personal impact on solving their individual problem.
Great ‘food for thought’. Thanks again.

Photo of Kaye Han
Team

Awesome. Glad the 'thought food' helped. :)

Photo of Eileen Lee
Team

Hi Terry,

This is a great idea. It sounds very similar to service-learning. Could you clarify on what the differences may be between service-based learning and your concept? I worked with a nonprofit called The Supply that implemented service learning curriculum into local slum schools to redefine education in a way that would incentivize students to lift their communities out of poverty. While service based learning proved very effective in more impoverished communities, I wonder if the same system would work as effectively in suburban areas where students may feel less empowered to 'create change' in their communities or outside of their communities.

Furthermore, what would be some indicators of success for your idea? While our educational system traditionally relies on standardized tests to effectively 'rate' students and schools, how would students be ranked against each other based on their performance on their projects? Considering college entry selectivity, perhaps 'successful' students who are taught with this type of curriculum may have greater social value that's comparable to a high GPA?

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Eileen,
Regarding your question on service learning…Service Learning to our experience, is a more structured form of the problem-solving framework. The full connection would be if the student explores or selects the problem they are working/wanting to solve, help develop methodology to do so, develops networks and mentors to see various pathways or ways they could impact the solution. To my experience, this is service learning at its best.
Many times, service learning opportunities have a ‘ready made’ or pre-identified problem that the entire class or group works with. They do learn a lot about the community or additional issues and the depth and scope of the problem they are working with. Service learning is very good at bonding students to a community and a few in the group will find a ‘passion’ in that work that guides them in plotting their pathway through higher education and career planning. Others may be inspired to explore additional service opportunities to find one that is the right fit for them.
Service learning could very well be a launching point into a problem-solving approach even if it is only a temporary foray as long as students have a debrief or guidance on analyzing what they discovered.
Regarding your comment about more affluent communities, there are still issues close to home but often more hidden. Students may need some help in ‘teasing out’ the issues they view as a pursuit worth their time or in looking at ‘what they plan on doing with their life’ to help them see how that would/could impact others.
We see evidence every day that service and problem-solving experience becomes the focal point of competitive selection not just grades or test scores. This is true for everything from admission to scholarships to internships.
Regarding measurement of success, it would not be difficult to develop rubrics to gauge a student’s depth of work, understanding, and commitment. It could also involve critical employment and life skills (formerly referred to as soft skills now called essential skills) such as communication and teamwork, leadership and crucial critical thinking skills that most universities work hard at helping their students learn.

Thanks for the interest and helping us clarify.

Photo of Pranav
Team

Hi Terry,

I certainly find your project interesting and unique, but I still have a few reservations about the idea especially in regards to higher education. As a current college student, me and many of my peers are still unsure of what we want to do for certain, but have developed areas of interest that have become our major/minor/concentration. At this stage, I would find it much more difficult for me to try to define a problem I'd like to solve in this world, rather than delving into an area of interest and seeing what comes of it following internships, club involvement, etc. Also, for those of my peers who do have a certain specific problem in mind, they can tailor their education to help meet these goal, but will still require extensive knowledge in certain subject matters. It seems more likely they would find their problem after picking a major than vice versa.

Another question I have is regarding the measure of impact. For an impact to be made, it would likely require a significant amount of time, and I'm unsure how willing higher education would be to shifting their curriculum to even allow a test like this. I'm curious how standards such as the "grit" or "resiliency" you mentioned in your impact measurement could be attained. I think the current system of majors still allows for great flexibility in career and life choices and that asking someone to define their entire education in a single question is more difficult than it may seem.

I do really like the idea of having a defined purpose with education, but I think it would be better to incorporate it through the form of a club or organization that steadily gains traction. A lot of social impact curriculum in higher education seems to relate to the approach you outlined, but it is used as a supplement rather than a replacement.

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Thanks for the input, Pranav.

We admit this shift will not be accomplished rapidly nor is it meant to totally change the way higher educational is structured nor functions.

As a starting point the 'single question' What problem do you want to solve? is designed as an advisement prompt and working structure or framework  to work with students on either designing their own major or broadening the scope of the classes they take to promote the maximum flexibility of skills and qualifications they take in higher education.

It would also become relevant in combining student choices of majors and minors, suggesting participation in clubs and organizations, connecting with mentors and targeting locations for co-ops and internships.

Regarding measurement, we can see projects or development and participation of multi-disciplinary teams in problem solving targets.  It is likely that a multi-phased levels of involvement would be developed that would engage professionals in the fields as well as employers along the way.  This would be a great avenue for potential employers to get to know students who may someday be their employees from a mentoring and project team perspective long before the interview process.

Thanks for helping us consider how to frame our design on this. 

Photo of Dan-Ah
Team

Hi Terry,

I think your focus on problem solving and developing tangible skills to do so would help solve the problem of students upon graduation feeling like they didn't learn how to do anything during their time. Many of the other ideas contributed to this problem mentioned that less than 50% of employers feel that students entering the job force are competent for the job and that many students are dissatisfied with the jobs that they enter into after graduation and end up switching jobs frequently. I think this paradigm shift from choosing a major to choosing a problem to solve could really change how students view problems and develop tangible and useful skills to tackle them. I also personally find, as an undergraduate senior looking back at my courses, that courses that focus on problem solving or doing research to figure out a plan for a company are much more useful and interesting than those that teach hard concepts and theories. Though I do also think that those concepts and fundamental terms and languages are necessary for students, I think those basic topics covered + problem solving mindset would allow students to be much better prepared for the future while also giving them a chance to experience certain types of projects and see what they enjoy doing, what roles they like playing, and what they have a passion for. Excited to see where this goes!

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

thanks Dan-Ah
I think you have stated our goal and vision nicely!
We appreciate your input and would love to hear back on how you think about this idea as you move forward in your post-college life.

Photo of Kaitlyn
Team

Hi Terry,

I think this idea would be very effective in creating a more passionate workforce. Often times when people are deciding career paths and what they want to do, they contemplate their options superficially. They consider their strengths, pay and opportunities, and potential spark of interest. They do not delve into the "why," the meaning, and the long-term outcome of the choices they make. Throughout college, it's mainly a matter of what is sustainable, what they are good at, a large amount of outside pressures, and a vague idea of what the students themselves actually want. At the business school I go to, students are pushed into idealizing a few job options. Extracurriculars, internships, and classes are huge focuses and topics of discussion. At times I feel trapped in this school structure, doing and participating in activities out of expectation and making my decisions for my interests based on tasks, responsibilities, and the content of what I learn. Your new educational paradigm would get students like me to think more deeply about our activities and the decisions we make, open many more doors, and give meaning to our career pursuits. It would also generate a more productive workforce of people that focuses more on the practical applications of their education and the changes they can create.

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Thanks Kaitlyn,
According to most long-range employment perspectives, up to 70% of the jobs that will be filled by students in elementary through high school today do not yet exist.  Being able to expand the adaptability  and transferable skills of anyone only better prepares them for this employment transformation.

Thanks for the support.  Good luck

Photo of Daryl Wang
Team

Hi Terry,
After reading this idea, i definitely believe students could use a platform like this. However, what this idea is trying to do is change the very basis for which our society works. Students go to college so they can get a degree and make the most money possible while studying something they are at least somewhat interested in. If you think about it, every kid in elementary school wants to be a fireman or policeman to help society but as we age, our motivations change and money becomes a priority. This is why i believe you should target a younger age group.

-Daryl

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Thanks Daryl,
Note the comment I added today about a problem solving challenge scholarship for 4-12 year olds!  We do feel that the approach can be applied at any age level with differing approaches to guidance on how they can pursue impacting the problem of their 'passion' and still make a living in the ever-changing employment landscape.

Photo of Essma
Team

Hi Terry,
Your idea sings melodies to my ears! I think it's such a wonderful idea on so many levels!

First, it has such *ginormous* incentive systems in place! It incentivizes people based on intrinsic motivation (i.e. solving a problem to better society) rather than extrinsic motivation (i.e. money!), hence students are MOST likely to perform so much better and actually look forward to (and enjoy!) their academic experiences!

Moreover, I love that you note the point of students' adaptability in their academic and career paths. Often we, as students, expect a clear direction for our lives to go with little adaptability to circumstances that may happen to us that are our of our control. Posing this question and giving ourselves a means to work through, rather than an end goal, allows us more flexibility to be able to adapt to other life circumstances.

Additionally, it provides us both experiential and academic learning opportunities, which enriches our learning experience immensely!

Finally, it's an extremely feasible solution. Taking a look at NYU Gallatin, I can see how this educational approach may fit. In NYU Gallatin, students are able to construct their own majors by proposing a major, getting it approved by an advisor, then building classes around it to provide the student with a full perspective on whatever topic s/he chooses to specialize in. In this way, Gallatin can take on the framework of allowing students to "major" in whatever problem they would like to solve, and they can construct their curriculum as such! It's so feasible and workable into the current systems we have that you can launch this yesterday!

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

thanks Essma,

It is good to hear Gallatin is adapting to the 'design your own major' idea.  When first introduced, it is an uncomfortable move for many institutions (particularly faculty) in the unorthodox and not quite predictable enrollment trends.  It is a difficult shift from the traditional for parents and stakeholders.

thanks for the encouragement and support.

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

One of the comments expressed by several  during this challenge was that younger students - below college level - may not have the ability to conceptualized problem-solving as an approach to their future planning.  We disagree. 

Just today the agency in Kentucky that manages student financial aid for the state announced a $1,000.scholarship challenge - The Dream Out Loud Challenge.  It is open to students in grades pre-k to 6th (ages 4-12)  The Challenge involves submitting a drawing, poem, essay or video discussing 'How will I change the world after I go to college?'

We humbly point out - this is problem-solving.

Hope all are well.  We have very much enjoyed participating.

Photo of Adrien
Team

Hello Terry,

I like you idea and I do agree that certain aspects of education need to be reformed but I also think that your approach might be too drastic. Changing the entire scope of education in the United States is simply unfeasible. Too much has been invested over too long a time for it to be reformed. Furthermore, I would also argue that younger students do not necessarily know what problems they want to change, and do not have the necessary tools or intellectual development to provide a reasoned and cohesive answer to that question. I would also say that this approach might limit the scope of employment for students because the skills learnt for the problem they seek to solve will generally not be transferable to another field, therefore limiting their professional opportunities. Lastly, problems in our society are every-changing and academic curriculums would therefore need constant adaptation to stay in line with current advancements.

Perhaps, your approach could be used for more technical work such as a plumbing or electrical engineers. I would think along those lines, as the problems you refer to are more easily definable.

Good luck!

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Hi Adrien
Thanks and it is not really our intention to reform the entire approach to education or current educational methodologies and structures but merely the approach of advising students in considering higher educational and career pursuits from a problem-solving point of view.

I do disagree with you about transferable skills, however and feel they actually give students more employment flexibility in changing societal environments.  Academia are continually adapting or facing pressure from students, funders and alumni to produce graduates who are employable.

Photo of Ernet M Williams
Team

Hi Terry,

I think your project is innovative and very well-intentioned but I also think that your ideas assume a lot about the resources that are available to your typical school-aged child. Your proposed paradigm shift is a complete break away from how public school kids are currently learning where they are fed a lot of information and then tested on their grasp of said information; and most times it is information that is not immediately relevant to each student, and certainly not relevant to any "problem" that a student might want to solve. While I think the supply of solutions to problems generated by students is in no short supply, the growth of their ideas require skilled nurturing and infrastructure which comes at a cost. In 2013, a study found that on average 51 percent of student across the country were low-income and attending low-income schools (https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/16/most-us-students-come-from-low-income-families). Citing this statistic, it is safe to assume that these schools do not have the resources to totally reframe the way in which both teachers and students think about learning without subsidization? Who will retrain teachers? Who will provide the resources that these children seek once they have decided what problem they would like to tackle? Have you considered this in your marketing?

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Good Morning, Ernet
Thank you for your interest.

We are well aware of the income statistics. In fact, we work with 33 school districts in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky where the average school has a federal block grant to feed all of their students a free lunch due to the percentage of the school below the poverty line soars to well over 70% sometimes over 90%.

I am employed by a college who for over 150 years has provided all admitted students with a 100% tuition scholarship, has been firmly involved in providing education and opportunities for students of all races, genders, religions, and backgrounds but is exclusively for low-income students of promise but low resources. If over the income limit, you cannot get in. NO student pays tuition. Berea College is highly respected with a great number of illustrious alumni and featured often in the New York Times. Our students have the same struggles as any other college but without the poverty they lived in limiting their opportunities. To quote Alexander Hamilton, 'The condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life'.

Yes, this idea is a break from how we encourage students to approach the future but is not calling for a massive overhaul of educational structure or for schools of any level (from secondary and below to higher education) to be required to invest in resource packages or personnel.

Initiation can begin with asking students a simple question - What problem do you want to solve?

I agree that the hardest part will be working with adults. Student encouragement can come from anywhere with or without additional funding. Students will rise to the question if given the safe space and fostering to discuss it. Working in education, we know the frustrations of a classroom. I started my career as a high school teacher. We feel that it is a teacher's job to make what they teach relevant for students. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen. For example, I have often heard student's ask 'what can I do with an major in English?', with the response of 'be a writer or teach English'.

As far as who will train adults to reframe how they work? We do not expect this to be an overnight solution but a very slow ripple that can grow.

I agree I need to be more clear on how the marketing of the idea and execution could be developed and we are working on that – see the next steps segment. In the prototypes, two of the three listed are working with students in low-income public schools facing reductions in funding and large budget shortfalls.

We must start somewhere. The challenge was to use a lens of accessibility to prepare students for the future by reimagining higher education. This approach is realistic to implement but will take time to integrate. This idea started with the folks at Google. It has taken them 16 years to become a standard of how we gather information.
Terry

Photo of Ernet M Williams
Team

Hi Terry,

Thank you for your speedy response. I realize that simply asking students "what problem do you want to solve?" is a great start to initiating your proposed paradigm shift, but my concern lies in how this paradigm is supposed to be sustained. The prototypes you provided only follow individual students for a matter of days, and every child is different. How is simply asking "what problem you want to solve?" supposed to help students dispel pressures "to declare a single major or career pathway before they have a chance to explore a deeper understanding of the actual needs of the issue or to focus their own passion" without supplying a wealth of resources that facilitate the development of student interests throughout their academic career? Aforementioned in my first post, such a project seemingly requires a lot of resources that low income schools do not possess. I am not writing to discount this project or your experience with Appalachian Eastern Kentucky school districts because obviously it has been working in those low income schools, but I am having a hard time visualizing this paradigm working on a national, or even greater regional scale, if they only thing the students can expect from Google is the question of "what problem do you want to solve?" My 3rd graders just had to write an essay about what problems they want to solve in NYC and it certainly has not changed the way in which they consume education.

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Ernet
Thank you for clarifying your point and hanging in there with me.  I do see your point and am sorry I wasn't more clear.  I think your point about how young to introduce the concept may be well taken.  Elementary school is a fine place to begin working with students on the early concepts of what are problems of concern and the types of people who work with them, it may, indeed, be too young to truly have an impact on how they approach other aspects of their education. 

I was thinking more of high school and beyond in the construct of this idea.

Photo of Sanjna
Team

This innovative idea is definitely a very unique proposition that alters the traditional and heavily engrained way that career paths are chosen by students. Using a problem in the world as a guide is an interesting way to develop a person’s passion at a young way and also emphasize making some type of positive impact rather than blindly chasing society’s vision of success. How effective do you believe this project will be in the long run? Do you think it will be treated as an experimental project by schools for temporary purposes? I feel that this concept will be hard to market due to the attitudes that parents and schools impose on children. In a way I feel that universities are more supportive of incorporating social impact into their curriculum than high schools. Is there any potential for partnering with business schools and also serving as a guiding tool for education about corporate social responsibility and how it should be a goal for all companies?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Terry.
Great User Experience Map! I like how you illustrated the two different journeys, and outcomes, based on same initial interest. Coming from a background in healthcare I was intrigued and found myself wondering how this might work. Are there advisors who work with students in this way - to research the breadth of different fields, or is this something that you are proposing that they become more skilled? Or is the role to bring search tools to the attention of the student?
Who make up the advising pool at colleges now? Are they geared towards advising on academic planning, coursework etc., or on career paths?

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Hi Bettina,

To your first question, the answer is a mixed one. Yes, there are advisors in many areas of the country (particularly if they have college access programs such as GEAR UP, Upward Bound or other federal TRIO programs) that work intensively with students on preparing for 'the next step' - primarily higher education options which may include vocational routes offering credentialing or associates -bachelor’s degrees. And no, you will not often - to our experience - find counselors who work with students from this 'broadening' approach. 

Yes, we are proposing that skill, of working with a student from a problem-solving framework, be enhanced. Advisors/Counselors will now often use search tools and interest inventories to try to narrow to manageable size options in career interests and opportunities for students. The current approach on continuing to narrow until there are only 1 or possibly 2 is where we are encountering the issues as students narrow their focus so far that they become blind to other opportunities.

To our experience in working with a large range of colleges from private to public, from community colleges to research universities the advisor pool normally is a multi-pronged approach. I just confirmed this with a college student (junior) working in my office today.

When a student first shows up on campus they have a First Year advisor who works with them on finding a major and transitional needs they might have.

Once they declare a major, a student is assigned an academic advisor in that college or department. This person is usually a faculty member charged with seeing the student takes the correct courses to graduate with a degree in their desired major and emphasis.

If a student decides to change their major, they are reassigned to an advisor in that area who can work with them on what classes they now have to have to fit the criteria for graduation there.

If the student has an internship, practicum, or co-op, they will likely also have an advisor for that who oversees their performance and is the liaison with the company or placement.

Once approaching graduation, students usually begin working with completion, capstone, or career planning and placement advisors on wrapping up their education on an undergraduate level and getting a job or into graduate school.

Each of these folks have their own agenda to accomplish with a student with various levels of connection and involvement.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Thanks for your response Terry. I thought the advising was something along those lines. My experience in college, a long time ago, was to have an academic advisor, a biology professor. I never discussed careers with him. Then there was a career office which I don't recall learning much from at that time. It seems that there is greater emphasis in these areas now, and that this is a focus on campuses, at least in terms of keeping kids on track, so that they do graduate. I really like that your idea is different. My question would be where would it best fit into the present landscape, and who would be most willing and able to do this work? It seems that you are in a situation where you can start this with high school students which is terrific. Are there professional organizations within higher ed where the idea can be shared and explored as a new and great idea?

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Absolutely!  I would suggest the ideal place to introduce the concept would be in orientation classes students participate in their first semester of college.  This would introduce the concept and get the idea germinating before a student is too far into the 'but I am only x months from graduation' trap.  It would likely start as a pilot program.  Institutions are often slow to make cultural changes without hard data documenting desired results. I do not see a 'throwing out' or even a large change in the way institutions function.  There would still be majors and degrees from an organization of colleges or specific department - that is how our brains work as well as our culture at large. The change would begin in the advisement mode; in working with students to understand and be able to identify and highlight transferable skills to address changes in not only their own situations or desires but the needs of the employment world and society.

The idea makes them a more adaptable worker as well as capable of staying focused on addressing the solution or end-result even in a shifting landscape of opportunity.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

I wonder if using social media to create awareness of this approach might be helpful? If the university posed this question to new students on Facebook or Twitter maybe they would also be curious and start conversations with assigned advisors on how to think about this, or build a schedule around their ideas?

Really exciting project! Please share updates as you learn during the process!

Photo of Terry Hosler
Team

Bettina,

Great idea!  thanks so much for the suggestion...and the encouragement.

Terry

Photo of Joon
Team

Hi Terry,

I love the idea of fostering a purpose behind higher education. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure which majors to choose from, and although I love what I study now, my career options are definitely tied to my major.
From my experience in college so far, I found it both helpful and interesting to hear from invited speakers from various industries talk about what they do, and the real-life challenges they face. It definitely helped me understand the usefulness of what I was studying in books and classrooms. Your approach to higher education will, in my opinion, need interactive education outside of the classroom setting. I learned about OpenIDEO through a class, and browsing through the different ideas on the platform and trying to add real-life value through comments like these challenges me to think in ways that are not only genuine, but also realistic.
My one concern is, if students are focused on a problem and build their college education around it, would it not limit their career options later on? I myself have changed my major while in college, and know of many peers who have changed or added majors to widen their career options. It would be helpful to keep a balance between finding a specific interest while also keeping future options open.

Thank you!

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Joon,

Thanks for the interest!  Regarding your concern about this approach limiting career options, we feel it would actually enhance them.  Many employers are not as concerned about the degree your earned in which field - yes, some do need specific majors for licensing or credentialing purposes - but rather what skills and abilities did you gain, enhance, have endorsed, or proved while getting said degree.  the whole idea of assisting students in identifying strong transferable skills is critical with changing landscapes of economy and employment opportunities. 

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It seems like your prototype aims to introduce the idea into students' minds, and get them thinking. After the idea is planted, I believe that school advisors need to elaborate further on those ideas, and propose opportunities for these students to "answer this problem" in different ways. Such opportunities can included participating in local competitions, or even introducing them to a platform like this so that students can browse similar problems to ones they want to solve, and read/make suggestions. Then, students could have a better idea of the skills they need to develop in order to solve such a problem, and direct their efforts/education towards adopting those skills. In addition, I think introducing students to videos such as TedTalks could be an interesting way for them to learn about different areas of study, since many of the topics are posed in a format in which a question about our world is answered.

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Dominique,

These are great suggestions.  We are still early in our journey for implementing our idea.  We are still in the very early stages of introducing it to schools, educators, advisors and higher education institutions much less students. 

The students we have worked with in the prototype are at a range of development.  The student leadership group referenced as group 3 have actually been a pilot group that we are continues to work with but have been developing over the past two years.  They get together quarterly.  The introduction of the idea that they could impact the issues in their community much less those in their state was profound. Though linkage with a child advocacy lobbying group, these students now age 14-18 have dealt indepth with the details of the issues they are involved with from data analysis to speeches in the Rotunda of the statehouse.  The result of one campaign was the passage of a change in funding for 'Kinship' care in the state of Kentucky just this month.   

I agree that a mixed media and mixed approach will be needed and thank you so much for your suggestions that we can add to our resource list.

Terry

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Hi Terry,

I really love this idea! I know I really struggled with deciding on a major and career path when I was an underclassman in college, and I wonder if I would still be going into consulting once I graduate in a few months if I hadn't felt like I had such limited options within my particular business school.

To be fair, I did try out a number of internships before I signed my full-time offer, but even that felt more restricting than your idea of having students consider what problem they'd like to solve and then engage on a project that aims to solve the problem. I find that when speaking to people today who have been in the workforce for decades, they don't realize how different the hiring landscape has become. I've had so many adults tell me that they were able to bounce around from acting to writing to just traveling before finally settling down with a definite career path, but I know that myself and many of my friends never got to explore as many passions, interests, and industries as we wanted to simply because getting an internship has become so competitive and we're often left feeling like we have to just take whatever we can get--a job's a job, right? Many of us end up getting boxed into a path by our freshman or sophomore year simply because we feel pressured to acquire certain internship experiences in order to perfectly fit whatever job opportunity we THINK we ultimately want.

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Rosalyn,  thanks for the comments and the interest.
I was actually having dinner this evening with my friend who directs coops and internships for a large university. She said she hears similar comments from students frequently. By discovering the problem you want to solve and building your experiences, classes, activities around it you could also use those skills to show employers how what you have learned and the abilities you have gained are applicable in any work environment or how you can build on what you know to succeed in any environment.

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Hi Terry,
This is a wonderful idea! It reminds me of this common phenomenon we are all used to seeing where a lot of people don't end up working in the field they study in college. I myself am highly interested in education reform but am majoring in Operations at a business school. Had I been asked at the beginning of my college career what problem I want to solve, I more than likely would have fallen into a different path of study.

I also think that by asking this question, you're not only challenging students (declaring a major, etc) but teachers and their methods of instruction as well. Classroom instruction might not be focused so much on lecturing but scenario and self directed learning instead.

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Thanks Angelis,

I appreciate your sharing your experience.  Yes, we see that very often.  The idea  is that students not only develop a focus and passion to guide them through their college experiences and career options but also identify the students strengths and transferable skills. 

In your situation, for example, you could definitely still have an impact on the problem of education reform with an understanding of Operations in Business.  In order to change education, a big step will be developing systems and restructuring the way education works.  A business point of view could be very helpful in the redesign.  Don't sell yourself short.  You can still have an impact on 'your problem'.

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Hi Terry, could you please add me to the team? I'd love to be updated, especially with how the small group discussion is moving forward!

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gladly!

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Hi Terry Hosler great work with the updates. I'm closely following :)

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Thanks Isaac,

I am also following the Club Solve4Work progress.  I noted you have added the 'What problem do you want to solve?' prompt into your development.  I am especially interested in how you will work with students on understanding and identifying transferable skills to keep them viable in a changing job market.  Employers very often say 'we can teach technical skill needs, but they have to come in with the essential skills (formerly called soft-skills) including problem-solving and understanding real world use of abilities they have and knowledge learned'.

Terry

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Really interested by this idea. I think we do see more often that majors offered to college students do not match employers needs. Additionally, college students are not left satisfied in what they are doing. This is a double loss. By allowing students to design what they want to study, and more specifically which problem to solve, not only are they learning more useful and pleasing skills, but also breeding entrepreneurial spirit.

A similar approach to this problem can be seen at NYU, where the Gallatin school allows students to design their own major. Check it out!

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Brandon,
thanks!  I didn't know about the design your own major option at NYU.  These are starting to pop up in colleges. 

Your comments comes back to the idea of helping students identify strengths and passions.  Also in developing transferable skills. With this as an approach, students can move with greater ease with when they have a change in focus or career opportunities.

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Hi Terry and team,

There is just a week left of refinement. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

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Well aware, Kate but thanks for the reminder.  I am working on updates and the additional pieces

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Hi Terry, great idea! I ran a leadership academy a couple years ago, where students had to complete 'badges', one of which was called SOLVE - where they had to solve a problem for a company or in the local community. We then taught then advanced problem solving techniques on how to disaggregate a complex problem, and come up with a recommended solution. We also did a group consulting project with a local food delivery company, to demonstrate the process first-hand. They also did a big presentation to the company at the end, which was fantastic experience for them.

I found it most effective when students solved a problem for an organization. They would network with employees at organizations of interest, interview them about their jobs, and then with this information be able to determine a problem that needs solving at the organization. I found this was more effective, because the problem tended to be something specific, and actionable.

Hope this makes sense.

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Thanks Joel!
Great practice and I can certainly see it as a step in moving forward in teaching students skills in problem-solving in small manageable pieces in a way that they are encouraged by results and can identify issues in their own community.  That is normally how it begins. It is also important for students to realize at some point in the process that some problems cannot be solved in their lifetime but they can still be involved in making the move toward the answer. Often, younger generations look for immediate gratification, however, here we are working toward changing a mindset of finding a major/occupation/career/lifework that taps into the passion or something that moves their heart.

The Starfish Story
An old man is walking a beach in the early morning. He sees a young boy, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” the man asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die,” the boy replied.
“But, son, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all. Even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference.”
The boy listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and hurled it spinning into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

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I think it is a great idea, when you find a passion for whatever you choose you gonna a enjoy doing it, so if somebody help you find that passion will be a great mentor and with these idea that you propose could be easiest.
There are many people that don't know there passion, to find an hability that the teenagers didn't know they have and can develope it with these case scenery.

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Israel,
Very true!  To often in education at any level we are very good at finding a student's deficiencies and providing resources to help fill the gap. Rarely do we help a student identify their strengths and build on them in identifying where they would benefit and be an asset.

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Terry - this (too) is fascinating.

Some ideas / questions:
- How could a student change their question if in their learning they find that actually there's a wholly different or more refined problem they want to solve?
- How do students who may / may not be academically ready for college-level thinking and reading/writing/math need to engage with this style of learning differently, if at all?
- Are there current schools that embrace this at some level that you might learn from? I'm thinking about colleges where you can design your own major (like Brown), or even high schools where you can design an independent study project in your senior year?
- How do you equip advisors to, well, advise in this mindset?

Super interested in your work - and just went down a rabbit trail on Berea. Are most students there from fairly affluent / stable communities? Or is there a diversity of income levels, demographics, etc?

Best,
Sarah from PelotonU

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Hi Sarah,
I only have a little bit and want to answer your questions in more depth so, if ok with you, I will answer those tomorrow but share a bit about Berea College now.

Berea is a private college exclusively for low income students - one of the campus catch phrases is "Berea College - the best education money can't buy!" Berea has provided a 100% tuition scholarship to all students admitted for over 100 years!  It is one of only 7 work colleges in the country.  It consistently lists as one of the top private liberal arts schools in the South and ranks high Nationally.  All 1600 students must work at least 10 hours a week on campus. The average total indebtedness on graduation after 4 years is under $5,000 and many students finish with 0 debt. 

Although some students are from urban areas across the country, even a few every year from abroad, Berea's primary mission is provide a high-quality undergraduate education to students of promise  but limited economic resources with a focus on Appalachia. The college offers 32 majors and is residential for all single students under 25.  For more see www.berea.edu .

One of Berea's more famous graduates is Dr. Samuel Hurst ' the Father of Touch Screen Technology' 

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Sarah,
Sorry for the extra day delay in response - other pressing deadlines!

Regarding your questions above:
1.  We fully anticipate students discovering and shifting their focus to a new or more refined problem. The idea is that they will still work on and be guided in finding multiple pathways to being part of the resolution team for the problem that is now their new focus.  The skills and insights they developed in their first pursuit can be of value in their new one - enter the concept of translatable skills and multiple viewpoints.  Advisors will assist in helping them with this application as needed.

As an example, a student originally wants to become /utilize their skills as an artist to fill the cultural gap in education.  Now they have a new passion toward a medical field in the fight against cancer.  One option is for them to see how their skills could be used as a medical illustrator to work with teaching or explanatory materials; or public relations in developing presentation information for medical trainings or patients or funders; or as an art therapist to assist patients in stress relief through art.

2) I don't believe they will engage differently but may enter the process at a different step.  The goal here is to discover the people of all sorts of titles, skills and capabilities that contribute to overall solutions. For example: school cooks and custodians are not usually degreed and may not be ever seen in a classroom with students but are still critical members of the education team.  They provide a learning environment that is fostering for students and nutrition for capable learning.  Often they also serve as mentors and support systems to students who feel alienated from other groups.

3) I am not sure of independent major programs utilizing this approach currently but OpenIDEO member Silvia Pulino is using this method in advisement sessions and orientation classes this semester at John Cabot University in Rome.  Here in Kentucky, we have been using this approach in working with high school leadership teams in multiple high schools with promising results.

4) Here you have hit on the key question.  This is a paradigm shift although it requires a zero budget outlay. It is difficult to move people from the traditional to the innovative.  With Google pushing this approach through their educational presentations and programming it is beginning to gain notice however.  You can check out Jaime Casap's presentations on YouTube. I am working on a multi-year progressive approach for a resource. The idea is to move away from pushing student's to be narrowly focused on a single career or educational pursuit. The era of a person only having one job or career throughout their life is nearly a total thing of the past. In working with a student from early discussions on the concept of working with a team, they can look at who needs to fill the many seats at the solution table and the variety of abilities and skills they bring.

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This model is sound with one exception- Each student must discover multiple problems that they want to solve:

I have taught workshops at colleges and, from this data I know that many kids just want to solve problems that directly impress them from sources like: TV, Mom&Dad Arguments, Homeless People.

If all students only know of the problems that result from the issues directly impacting them then, they all want to work on similar things.

The goal then, the exception here: To introduce classrooms to a spectrum of problems that are being faced in the geographic region. Then, take them to see the problem (so that they are impressed by it) and, then you have interest in a larger spectrum of problems- as opposed to just those they see in their neighborhoods.

I do not think VR headsets can be used to introduce kids to problems overseas- the use of the hands in real life to contribute to problems can be achieved by writing programs that result in helpful tools but, many of todays issues we can't disagree- they are not solved always by typing on a keyboard- they are problems of confidence, personal security, food quality, human health, etc. so, these issues can't be solved only by typing out code- there is more hands-on that must occur.

The organization of a classrooms perceived problems then must be done after you introduce them to all the problems in their geo region- otherwise you are left with a classroom that isn't thinking past it's neighborhood.. and that's not going to work if things are to be solved at a decent rate. The overlap of similarity amongst the problems perceived will be too great and, you will have too many students learning the same skills to all solve the same problems ending in a disparity between problems of the same type and those needed to solve them.

If this isn't clear, then lets make it clear: @mrdignitty (Twitter)

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Terry, I would like you to know that I have already started implementing your idea. During the typical introductions of the first week of classes, I have asked my students to add "the problem they would like to solve" to the information they gave about themselves. This led to a lively discussion on how to go from the higher level problem to how to become part of the solution. As a segue to this, I have been asked by Student Government to provide a talk/workshop open to all students to develop the idea further! I am very excited about it and thank you for triggering this new line.

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Silvia,
Would you like for me to add you to the team listing for this idea? As I understand the system will then keep you updated on other comments as well.

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thank you!

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This is really great :)

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Thanks Isaac,
It is a framework to shift approaching students to think about a long-term plan and develop a focus. 
I do want to point out that the idea is not originally mine but really shifted my conversations and aligned with an approach initiative we had been taking with a small group of high school students with impressive results.

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Silvia,

Please let me know how this is going?  I am very excited to gain your input from your experiences with the concept.  If you would rather email me - terry_hosler@berea.edu - that would be fine too!

thanks so much for sharing this with me. 

terry

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I applaud your idea to broaden student's thinking at an early age beyond the required subject matter. It also lends itself to an integrated approach to learning. Also introducing students early on to a circle of mentors or advisor gives them the opportunity to experience the notion of networking and other career building skills that are necessary today. Are you thinking about a platform, an online community (LinkedIn) for students to share ideas and find like-minded thinkers?

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Patty, I was thinking of a more 'in-person' format but your suggestion  gives me ideas on next steps as well as distance and virtual mentoring possibilities.

Thanks,
Terru

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Hi Terry,

What/Who/How does education serve?
Some themes to reflect with a local and global perspective:
(1) Meaning and Purpose
(2) Interconnectedness and Interdependency
(3) Altruism

Integral Education as explained by Dr. Michael Laitman.
http://www.michaellaitman.com/integral-education-page/

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Thanks for the reference, Teo!

Terry

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Hi Terry,

I love flipping the educational script from "what's my career" to "how can I help"? I think it could be quite empowering for kids to feel like they can be part of a solution, that their opinions are being valued and that their solutions could really be of use.
There was a mention of field trips in a previous post around 1/15. I definitely understand the constraints of budget, and wonder if virtual field trips could be of use? A tour of an elderly home, of an animal shelter etc. Kids are getting more used to experiences via a screen, so it might be a way to share and learn about possible problems that need to be solved.
Again, great reframe and idea!

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Hi Karey and thanks!
I agree that virtual field trips are an option when others may not be available. My 6 year old granddaughter in Kentucky's first grade class have online walks and penpals with her aunt's 2nd grade class in Shanghai China!

This is a great way for students to gain a broader perspective as well as that locally.

Terry

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thanks Karey!  Students are often startled when you ask them the question but it sticks in their head.  I asked a 14 year old the question on Wednesday night. He was disconcerted.  He was sure he wanted to be an oncologist. The next day I overheard him in a discussion with a state official.

She had asked him what he wanted to be. His response was that he wanted to work on finding a cure for cancer. He thought he would be a oncologist but knows he will need to work with a team that involves research as well as those who interact with patients like the people who helped his mom.

His primary goal had not changed but he had opened to the idea that broader perspectives and skills were needed to accomplish the goal and that a variety of skills would go into getting to the final solution.

Terry

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Hi Terry Hosler , I really like the idea of a change in a mindset.

This is a paradox, because I've seen that usually people of different ages have struggles, and look for solutions. Nevertheless, sometimes is uncommon to connect this problems we have with the education we receive -if we receive formal education.

I think we share interests and goals, perhaps the draft scheme I have in my idea of an Open Media Lab could give you ideas for the "early, lightweight experiment": https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/open-media-lab/

Kind regards, and congrats for being in the Refinement Phase.

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thanks Andres,

I appreciate the suggestion and read your submission with interest.  Integration might be a blend of the change in philosophical guidance approach in my design and the media approach of yours.

Terry

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Welcome to the Refinement phase Terry! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit: http://ideo.pn/2du9sf7

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 02/01" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

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Hi Terry,

I hope you are having a nice day.

There are two ideas from previous challenges that you might be interested in looking at:

Vykarious in our End of Life Challenge - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/top-ideas/vykarious - has a great user journey and identification of personas and visualisation of feedback of the idea.

"I Know Something" (IKS) - also in the End of Life Challenge - is a peer-to-peer storytelling platform built on short, first-person video stories and simple reflection exercises - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/top-ideas/peer-learning-storytelling

It might give a few ideas on how digital could be used as a supplement to face-to-face meetings.

I would recommend really digging down into what is the problem, how is this solution and think about what the competitors are to demonstrate that this a ‘need to have’ and not a ‘nice to have’.

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Hi Terry and Silvia,

Welcome to the refinement phase, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me by using @ and typing my name. Take care, Kate

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The biggest challenges I've found with this approach is that young people see the world differently than adults. Young people don't see many of the problems that older people see. I think they aren't as dissatisfied with the way the world is as adults. We are products of our environment and kids just accept the world for the the way it is. So their motivation to continue working on the problems is low. However, i find about 20% of students mostly girls..can maintain perseverance towards the projects. They also score really high in Humanity and Justice. http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification

How do we motivate more students to engage with this method?

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Max,
I understand your perspective but, to my experience, I agree with Silvia.  Yes, young people can easily disengage and be oblivious to the concern around them and in a broader world.  However, in probing I have heard the answer 'why should we care when we are just kids. No one listens to us, we have no money, can't vote (in the US before age 18) and have not power or experience.'

I believe the first step is to give value to their opinions.  Sure, their passions will change, mine sure did as I matured. However, if they are given guidance and a structure to work with and the understanding that they can accomplish impact on their community and the world at large they will focus in.  Confusion and frustration is normal.

Their engagement will not all be of the same level or at the same time but we have to start somewhere.

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Terry,
I agree with that. And I think that the current education environment and local culture plays a huge role it their thinking and behavior. If we create a different education systems, we will create different kids. This is the easy part. The difficult part is the real world.

The" guidance and a structure" is important. I work with "bad" students. I've even taught shop in Julienne detention facility, that's about as dangerous as it gets, haha. But what I learned was how well guidance and structure can work. Scream Free Parenting and Positive Discipline are two of my favorite books.

"Their engagement will not all be of the same level or at the same time but we have to start somewhere." So with elementary I start with interest, High School start with group challenges,post secondary turning problems into opportunities.

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Max,

Exactly!  I think we are on the same page and that you have experience and understanding of the dire need for counseling/advising and working with students to find and develop their own focus and passion to impact change; to believe in their own value to help make a difference - now or in the future.  I fully agree the cultural change needs to be from the very beginning.  Big challenge! And, while that shift is happening, we need to also reframe or reimagine (as the challenge is worded) how we are preparing students for the future through higher education with a focus through the lens of accessibility.  Working with students on focusing their passion is not a quick fix or an tech outreach but it is a launch pad for reframing our approach with students of any age level to assist them in developing a pathway that having that impact.  Higher education is a channel to developing the knowledge, skills and networking needed.

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"how to reset the approach"
get out of the classroom environment. develop a space with the culture to facility your objectives.

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@Max Noble: it is true that young people see the world differently from adults, but different is not "less". I have found they are actually in tune with topics that are closer to them, such as the environment, education and inequalities. When I tried Terry's approach I got excellent responses, and much more than 20% of students showed engagement. If anything, the lowest response was from the seniors, who are very much focusing on career paths and their upcoming professional choices. This may not change the world overnight, but it works in terms of opening a new window for students and prime them to think of themselves as part of the solution.

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Silvia

thanks and I agree.  You have to guide them in the early processes but I have found the idea that they can be involved at any age and don't have to wait to cross some arbitrary doorway is very empowering to young people.  I have found, however, that they have to sincerely believe that you are interested before they will open up.

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This is a great Idea I see a trend here. I began look through the ideas to find this trend. such as Ryan's Product-Based Education (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/assignments/mission-meet-the-market1) Joel's Global Leadership academy (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/don-t-teach-subjects-teach-skills) which is a great support for your idea. France's "Making Industry Challenges Apart of the Curriculum (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/make-industry-challenges-part-of-the-curriculum) and mine Holacracy-Powered Social Business RPG (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/holacracy-powered-project-based-roleplay-learning)

This is only scratching the tip of the iceberg. Basically, it seems to be that what is needed is a project-based learning model for post-secondary education and your idea of focusing on solving problems encapsulates that idea nicely.

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Meaning and Purpose of work may interest you! I commend you for working to solve problems and a great way for students to learn! They learn best when immersed with these types of real life problems!

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Terry,

It would be very useful for any society to understand the purpose of higher education, not as a means to an end, but as an insightful and exciting process to take part of. I remember reading a book called "Education's End" by Anthony Kronman on how society, at least in America, has lost the meaning of higher education. Your idea could inject a fresh perspective on education for the long-run!

My concerns are whether this programme is holistic enough in understanding the purpose of education. Does it always need to revolve around solving problems, let alone world problems? You engage with younger students, which is good. But to make them figure out what problem they want to solve is, I believe, premature as well. It feels like they have to rush, then follow social pressures to enter university as soon as possible. Which then prompts these questions: is higher education a necessity for progression? Are there no alternate paths one can take other than through university? Can they not to choose an interest (learn about tea culture, learn about flowers, learn about ceramics, etc.). It does not particularly solve a problem, but there's still a clear purpose.
As much I have benefitted from higher education, it does not serve a purpose for everyone. In fact, sometimes it can limit an individual's thinking on what they can do with their life after graduation. Sometimes many individuals don't understand the full capacity of university resources. Other times, a student knows what problem they want to solve, but fail to achieve the goal when they find the job they wanted, because it just did not seem worth it anymore. Perhaps it was because they had an idealistic notion of the solution they had to solve the problem, but the friction (i.e. life's struggles) was too much for them, shattering dreams. That said, I believe university is not for everyone, and I am hoping you have a system that can solve this gap.

I may have not fully understood your concept, which is why I bring up these thoughts of mine. But I hope it can provide some useful feedback!

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Silvia,

Fantastic!  Obviously, the idea was not my original thought just a reframing but I am so pleased to hear how you have found it triggering responses and deeper thought with both students and the broader campus community.

Please keep me updated on how it goes.  We are also implementing it with groups of high school students as well as using it as a guiding question with college students.

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Hi Terry,
I think your idea is great,if it was used the world would truly be a better and more advance place. I think one way you could get people to find out what they want to change is by bringing regular field trips to the school curriculum. Varying in places, from their local town to polar opposite such as a 3rd world country. Understanding the difference might help to gain compassion and inspire particular children that never thought about it.
Hope this helps.

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Thanks Isabel,
That would be fantastic.  Will less and less funding available for schools - particularly rural schools with a low tax base - trips can be problematic to fund. However, taking a bus route survey of issues discussed in a brainstorming session with individuals or groups of students would be a great starting point.  Once they had a list, students could document/count what evidence they observed of the issues in their community through the lens of their school bus ride home, conversation with their friends and families.  I have found that if they can 'back away' from the 'weeds' for a few minutes to do the evidence documentation they can analyze the need for their passion and help in a new perspective.

Thanks for the thought.

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I like this part. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Hi Terry,

This is very similar to an idea I have been working on Mindover U: Hacking Your Thinking - The "T-shaped" University . Please check it out and let me know what you think. Would be interested in collaborating!

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Hi Terry - "What you want to solve" is such a powerful starting point and could alleviate a lot of the problems that students and professionals face today. I heard an alarming statistic of over 70% of people were unhappy with their jobs in 2013. I can't imagine that the number has improved much, if at all. By asking what kind of impact they want to have rather than what they want their title/profession to be, it can get students thinking meaningfully about their impact and be more engaged in and aware of what is going on in their communities.

Would it be possibly to get students in middle school and high schools engaged in local startup events and hack-a-thins? I recently participated in a Startup Weekend Social Impact event, as well as hosted a Startup Weekend Education event, and I thought that it would have been amazing to have student participation. In the event that I hosted, we actually invited students to serve as "mentors" for the groups because ultimately the product or service would be for the creation of next generation school models. In turn, the students were able to learn from working professionals how to ideate and build these kinds of platforms. It would have been great if these kinds of events had more student participation in the future.

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Alex,
Thanks so much for joining in and your ideas.  I believe the younger students get involved in knowing their input is valuable the better.  I would suggest approaching a local high school first. Try to engage a teacher or staff member to accompany students in a mentor or chaperone capacity or parents to build a comfort level for all involved in the first few meetings.

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Terry, I really like your idea, and in a smaller way I am going to adopt it in my advising. Asking people "what problem would you like to solve?" is also empowering, as it takes for granted that they can solve problems and it forces them to consider the problems around them.

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thanks Silvia,

Not my original idea but certainly one to share. You are right it is very empowering to a student to feel they might be a part of a larger solution.

My favorite illustration to students is 'The Starfish Story'
The Starfish Story
An old man is walking a beach in the early morning. He sees a young boy, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” the man asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die,” the boy replied.
“But, son, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all. Even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The boy listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and hurled it spinning into the sea. “I made a difference to that one.”

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I love this idea! It might be great to focus on problems within communities that the students live in, study in, or are accessible to them. I see much interest by students on global issues but there are so many problems in our local communities why not start there? Might this course, taught by Dan Ryan at Mills College work with this approach? https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/design-thinking-for-in-higher-education/
It would be wonderful to bring traditional students together with life long learners, maybe community business people etc., and non traditional students to work together on problems. There is potential for much sharing and learning I think with this approach.

Looking forward to seeing this idea develop!

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….and I love the image you posted! It feels like when you ask youth this question, "What problem do you want to solve?", they are immediately engaged and I think this also lets them feel seen and heard.

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:) We did and they were!
  If you can see some of the signs, they had written issues such as: Child abuse, Obesity, Drug Abuse and other issues.  The students started with outlining issues they had identified in their communities, worked with data from Kid's Count and other sources to validate that the issues were actual identified problems not just single occurrence or perceptions without substance. They then learned about advocacy and what skills, actions and professional input might be needed to address the problem.  They were challenged to 'think outside the box' on how they could help make a difference and who should also be involved.  Each student identified a problem they were personally passionate about and presented the issue as it related to their community, state and broader.  The exercise gave them perspective. 

With this mindset of passion with purpose, they started the exploration of college/majors/career choices utilizing the individual students strengths and passions to help them reach the goal of having impact on solving their issue.

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I think it is great that your idea is for high school students. This would be a great exercise for community college students also. They might find that their passions require a different path and with support they might they be able to redirect?

You might be interested in this idea which imagines focusing on a problem or challenge to pursue as a pathway to learning at the college level.
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas/mindover-u-hacking-your-thinking-the-t-shaped-university

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Hi Terry,

This is so great! I would like to learn more about this approach. I'm thinking we could borrow your approach and apply here in Kenya, with focus on college students and recent graduates in relation to my submission: Solve4Work Challenge because here in Kenya, the complain is always that our universities produce half-baked graduates who are incapable of working on real word challenges. Thanks so much

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Isaac,

Please read my response to Bettina's comment above on the 13th beginning with ' We did and they were' . In using this approach with students, sometimes you have to realize their 'problem to solve' is a steady income or putting food on the table for their family.  This cannot be discounted.  They have to see how their passion can help not only their immediate need but those of their neighbors in ever broadening circles as their sense that 'yes, they do have something to contribute to the solution' grows.

I often have students say ' I want to do xxx career because it pays well'.  This approach - including a real look at the data not just a single experience - can help them focus beyond just a career pathway but to a 'place and purpose' in society. 

Too often students are in college because ' that is the next step' rather than a clear (or even hazy!) vision of why and what comes after this.

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Hi Terry!

It's cool to see you were inspired by a lot of the posts on this site! It would be awesome if there was a way to explore all of your options and passions without committing.

I know this sounds crazy, but dining in exchange for mentorship would be a really simple way to get juniors and seniors involved. It's a relaxed way for people to offer advice. And in my expert opinion, most people live off campus in their third and fourth years and were always trying to get people to swipe them in for free food.

If there was a mixer or an event and something that the student could write on their resume, it would be a really relaxed environment to ask questions.

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Also, maybe check out Pitching: the Bridge between Idea and Reality about working on projects based on real world application! Maybe you can get some inspiration or give some inspiration!