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Asthma in the City

Secondary

Description

This problem-based learning unit focuses on the health effects of poor air quality.  Students are asked to explain why one twin has asthma and one does not. Students form groups called Think-Tanks that allow them to research the issue by assuming different roles. They are challenged to explore the problem, research and answer the question, discover ways to evaluate the answers and then present these to other class members.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Students learn the skills associated with problem solving - identifying the problem; asking relevant questions; gathering and sharing information; generating and analyzing possible solutions;determining the best solution; presenting findings and advocating action.

In progressing through each of these steps, students must practice critical analysis and evaluation and the skills associated with cooperative learning.

Strengths

The resource

  • takes advantage of our innate interest in mysteries and our eagerness to play detective. 
  • outlines a framework for problem -based learning
  • encourages  cooperative/peer learning
  • provides rubrics for evaluation
  • allows for a degree of interdisciplinary learning
  • includes a "what is to be done?" concluding exercise

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Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Air Pollution
  • Citizenship (1)

    • Community-Building and Participation
  • Human Health & Environment (5)

    • Access to Health Care
    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
    • Environmental Justice
    • Health Promotion
    • Quality of Life
  • Human Rights (2)

    • Poverty
    • Social Justice
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Sustainable Urbanization

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The first step required of students in their efforts to resolve the problem presented by the resource is to create a categorical concept map based on what members of the class know from the reading and their own experiences. Think-Tank groups then generate up to four questions about the problem. This approach offers considerable guarantee that the answer is not pre-determined and that all perspectives will be acknowledged.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The role-playing exercise is somewhat restrictive in that  the relevant roles - epidemiologist, doctor of medicine, environmental biologist, sociologist - are set, but these would seem to cover all relevant voices.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The complexity of the problem is recognized in exploring the possible factors at play in causing the asthma and in weighing the impact of the various solutions that students are expected to suggest. 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

Students are required as part of the concluding exercise to undertake a " Plan Solution Products and Presentations" in which each of the Think Tanks present their solutions to an audience of teachers, parents and other students. After each group presents, time is allowed for students and visitors to question and critique the presentation.

The final exercise, Reflection, has students consider “What should we do now?” Students generate some actions that they could take to solve a dilemma such as this. This activity can be used to generate more ideas for possible research or actions to be taken by the students to confront the environmental health problem.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Among the roles assigned within the simulation is that of the sociologist. In researching the possible causes of asthma, the sociologist may be expected to investigate possible links to socio-economic factors and thereby make students aware of the link between poverty and disease. Such a discussion may be expected to have students reflect on their own and society's values on these issues.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

The pedagogy adopted by the resource serves to personalize the issue of asthma and in doing so may heighten student empathy for those suffering from the disease.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

While the resource simulates a problem - the causes of asthma- the understandings acquired have relevance for one's local community and the Reflection component of the resource directs students to consider what may be done at the community level in accordance with this new understanding. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The resource employs the principles of problem-based learning. The problem is introduced; relevant questions are identified and modified as required; research is undertaken; solutions are proposed and assessed; conclusions are reached by consensus; understanding gained are related to the real world. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Solving the problem requires that students use analytical, inquiry and design strategies that are generic and therefore have broad curriculum relevance. Students explore the relationships and common themes that connect mathematics, science, and technology.

The research and presentation components has students listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding -skills common to the Language Arts curriculum.

Consideration of the roles, right, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation are to be found in many Civics/Social Studies courses and while not central to the resource may be explored by teachers and students.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students are confronted with a question/mystery - Why does one twin have asthma and another not? They generate and modify the questions that need to be answered in order to solve the mystery. Working in collaborate groups, students gather and share relevant information and generate possible solutions.

In progressing through these steps, students acquire the skills associated with problem-based learning.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

The mix of teaching elements - simulation, role playing, collaborate learning, research,preparing solution products and presentations - allows for a variety of student interests and abilities.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The resource is designed to achieve the intended learning through a structured simulation. 

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Very Good

Students are grouped into Think Tanks that allow them to research the issue presented by assuming different roles.  Various handouts - Problem-Based Learning Timeline Map; Collaborative Work Skills Rubric; Role Cards for Think-Tank Members; PBL (Problem-Based Learning) Chart -help students acquire the skills associated with cooperative learning.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Very Good

The resource includes a Collaborative Work Skills Rubric and a Group Research Rubric. A blank Presentation Rubric and Solution Product Rubric is also provided so that students may gain experience in the design of rubrics. Additionally, the resource provides a Decision-Making Matrix that students must complete and submit for teacher evaluation.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

The creation of Think Tanks and the accompanying role playing exercise require students to teach one another in order to resolve the problem presented and to advocate for a particular solution.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Students are presented with a simulated case study - the story of the re-union of twins separated at birth and the discovery that one of the twins suffers from asthma. The use of twins to study various social phenomena is a common practice, giving the simulation the required sense of authenticity. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The resource strikes a balance in providing the necessary structure for students to investigate the problem presented while allowing students to frame the questions that must be investigated and to pursue their own conclusions. 

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.