Applying Thinking Patterns to Ethics Case Study Activity: Destructive Emotions Avoided

At PFEW 2018, I serve as a Company Advisor (CA). The program has an incredible history which means they have a well developed educational program for the students. With 447 students at this week’s camp, a plan is certainly a necessity. As a CA, one of 23 other professionals, I join my peers in the effort to bring our experiences to the students within the PFEW framework. Since learning the Thinking Patterns (dsrp) by Drs. Derek and Laura Cabrera, I’ve evangelized how all learning and organizational situations benefit from their application. Today, I witnessed first hand what I consider a Mission Moment.

My personal Mission as well as my Mission at THINK’ID8 includes helping others THINK. So, this Mission moment exemplifies one of those rare moments in time worth sharing. During the camp, the students are exposed to a fantastic ethics situation. The challenge I have personally with the study of ethical situations is that we (the collective education system) teach kids to debate ethical issues. Debate meaning they “argue” for or against a particular scenario. Presenting sides and creating a “I win, you loose” situation was the approach I planned to avoid during the session I would help facilitate. Enter THINKING.

I certainly didn’t have the floor to teach students about dsrp. That’s not needed. I used dsrp to help me design the event, the student role, the rules, the context for the interactions between the students. With 60 students, a process suitable for the educational goal was paramount.

I created a perspective table in the middle of the group. Each team faced one side of the table. The forth side was used by myself and the other CAs. I placed three paper tents on the table. One said “Questions”, one “Perspectives,” and one “Ideas.”

The three student groups were asked to have their representative explain their perspective on the ethics case. After, the two groups would have time to respond through individual representatives coming to table and standing on opposing sides of the table. From there they would ask questions in an effort to understand perspectives and build new ideas.

Before this happened though, we discussed the framework. To ensure we moved beyond a debate and to knowledge building, we agreed that responses would be in the form of questions. “I disagree with you because…” statements were replaced with “Have you considered the impact of X and is so, describe your thoughts.” We discussed how these questions would help us uncover more information and that sharing perspectives would allow us all to build on our mental models or create new ones (new ideas). We adopted this approach to avoid little to no progress (ie, everyone stays put on their idea because they are fighting for it).

This group of 60 teens did an amazing job. The occasional slips into old routines took a few down the path of showing how emotions made them stubbornly attempt to prove they were right and others wrong. But we corrected each other. The students policed each other and demanded their peers ask good questions rather than simply attack their position.

Without teaching dsrp, Thinking about Thinking created a Mission Moment for me. I saw respectful teens demonstrating empathy and a thirst to learn, agreeing to be okay with the ambiguity of an ethics conversation and the willingness to participate in a structure that helped them pursue a learning goal.

The best result was the lack of teen emotions that often cloud their thinking. In this case, their emotions allowed them to share ideas openly. It was an awesome thing to be part of.

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