Multicultural Problem Solving: Case Studies
activity requires 30-60 minutes.
of this activity is to engage participants in a process of collaborative
problem-solving around equity related issues through the use of case
studies. Participants will develop an understanding of the necessity to include a variety of voices and perspectives in order to
successfully address issues that arise around race, gender, class,
sexual orientation, or any other identity dimension. They will
begin to better understand the collaborative process and how they tend
to participate in it. This activity can be a useful springboard
into conversations about specific issues drawn from the cases or case
step in preparing for this activity is finding one or more cases or
case studies about specific instances of conflict in schools.
These cases may come from news reports, film clips, or any other media
that details the specifics of a particular incident or series of incidents
in a school setting. Another excellent source for cases is a collection
of the personal experiences of the participants. Consider having each participant
bring a short description of an equity-related conflict they experienced or witnessed, especially if it was not resolved successfully. Whatever
source you choose, make sure every participant has read, watched, or
otherwise become familiar with the case. Click
here for an example of a case in the form of a series of journal entries.
the hand-out entitled "A Collaborative Model
for Addressing Conflict in Schools."
beginning the process of working through the model, review, in detail,
the steps of the model with participants.
- Go through
the model slowly, step by step, using the questions accompanying each
step to prod participants along. The goal is to be as inclusive as
possible and to make sure responses for each step come
from a diversity of participants. When disagreement develops, allow some
dialogue, but send the message that the central point is that different
voices inform everyone's understanding. The early steps are not about
agreeing, but about getting all possibilities and ideas out on the
table for consideration. Record all responses on a chalkboard, dry
erase board, or any other resource that will allow all participants
to observe the development of the model. It is essential to
illustrate how this process is cumulative. Each step in the model builds
off all steps of the process leading to it.
the Conflict Identification prompt, allow people to identify varied
central issues. This likely will result in a good opportunity to point
out how our own experiences, biases, and assumptions inform
how we see every situation.
the Perspectives prompt, encourage participants to think beyond the
people specifically named or shown in a particular case. Who else
is involved? Encourage them to think about the surrounding community
and observers and others who may not be obvious initially. This is
an important step to show how equity-related conflicts are sometimes
symptoms of bigger issues that involve the entire community even
if this conflict has presented itself as an incident between two people.
might consider splitting the Challenges and Opportunities prompt into
two sub-prompts by discussing one at a time. Be sure to challenge
participants to think beyond the challenges and opportunities for
the individuals directly involved in the conflict. Many conflicts,
especially those that involve controversial topics, pose challenges
and lead to opportunities at an institutional level. With this in
mind, Challenges and Opportunitites should be discussed in the context
of all perspectives identified in the previous step.
Strategies prompt should be a quick brainstorming process. This is
not the place for people to critique each other's strategies, but
an opportunity for everyone to have their ideas heard and
added to the list. Strategies should be informed by Perspectives as
well as Challenges and Opportunities in that they should spring from
a desire to maximize educational opportunities and the extent to which
they make sense in the context of the challenges posed by the institutional
nature of the relevant issues for everyone involved.
Solutions step involves collaboratively and systematically working
through the Strategies with the goal of verbalizing two or three specific
ways to address the conflict. These strategies should be specific
and practical. Encourage students to think outside of the box so that
they are not constrained by existing ways of addressing issues. Consideration
of the Perspectives step and the Challenges and Opportunities step
should intensify during Solutions.
Outcomes represent what the group expects or hopes will result from
stepping through the model, it will be important to process the experience.
There may be some frustration or anger on the part of students whose
ideas were not ultimately chosen for the Solutions step by the group.
Several important questions can be raised:
was the process of addressing this case through a collaborative
process different from your previous experiences addressing equity-related
conflict in schools or elsewhere?
was the most difficult part of participating in this process?
any of your assumptions exposed as a result of the process? If
so, which ones?
are equity-related conflicts normally resolved in schools or other organizations, and to whose
are the benefits of assembling a diverse team to address these
any ideas or perspectives shared that you would not otherwise have
above, this can also be a useful activity for easing into dialogue about
specific issues such as race, gender, class, or sexual orientation.
You also might consider combining it with a story-telling activity so
that the stories of participants become the cases.
of this activity can include an additional dimension of depth if you
break participants into small groups, asking each group to go through
the entire process. After doing so, each group should share their work,
so that a conversation about the different results can emerge. This might
lead to a discussion about how people participated in the small
groups. Did somebody try to take the lead? Was anyone's voice silenced?
What did people in the group do to ensure that everyone's voice was
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