Designing Effective Projects : Using Knowledge

Examples of Teaching Decision Making
In the Project Plan, Teacher’s Pet, young learners study different animals and their habitats in order to choose a new pet for the teacher. This project provides many opportunities for a teacher to discuss aspects of good decision making. As the learners propose possible pets, they can be prompted to think about the long-term consequences of choosing different pets.

  • How big will the pet grow to be and how big of a pet can the teacher have?
  • What kind of a habitat does the pet need? Can the teacher provide the right habitat? What would happen to the pet if it lived for a long time in the wrong habitat?
  • What kind of care does the pet need? Can the teacher give it the right care? What would happen to the pet if it lived for a long time without the right kind of care?

Senior Phase learners think about what makes a hero in the project Enduring Heroes. This project gives learners the opportunity to think about values and goals in terms of contemporary heroes. This project can show how different people make different decisions based on their personal values and beliefs. Teachers can ask learners to think about what values their proposed heroes represent and then give them explicit guidelines in how to match those values to their own.

A word of caution to teachers who want their learners to be better decision makers. Some programs give learners a list of specific steps to go through when making decisions. This may not be the best way to teach the skills. Decisions are not always linear, and some learners, depending on their personalities or thinking styles, may reject a rigid process, which may cause them not to think about their decisions at all. Help learners find a way that makes sense for them and that helps them take into account all the information that they need to make a good decisions. The ways of doing this can be different depending on the learning and thinking styles of each learner. Helping learners devise methods that are flexible and practical makes it more likely that learners will use them on their own.

Langer, E. J. (1989). Mindfulness. New York: Merloyd Lawrence.

Marzano, R. J. (2000). Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Swartz, R. J. (2000).Thinking about decisions. In A. L. Costa (Ed). Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking, (pp. 59-66). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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