Examples to top
This section looks at two different examples for problem solving:
Example I - The explanation of social structure
Example II - The disappearance of Neanderthal Man
One of the problems with problem solving as a teaching method is the inability to break
out of our precepts. Since each discipline is often seen as a whole unto itself, it is
sometimes difficult to see the relationships between the different disciplines. Particularly when
one field, lets say mathematics, does not appear to lend itself well to help in our
understanding of one of the 'soft' sciences such as sociology.
For instance, if we could look at a problem from an economic or a cyclical or a mathematical
or a political or geophysical standpoint, we would not only gain new depth in perception
but would also discover possible alternative explanations of the problem.
Throughout the last 200 years, sociologists have looked at sociological phenomena through
many different lenses.
Example I - The Explanation of Social Structure
Different basic ways of looking at society
society as a random set of acts
society as a grand design set at the beginning and played out to the end of time
society as an innate set of processes or ways of responding (instincts)
society as a complex set of cyclical processes controlled by reoccurring forces
society as a recognition and attraction on a genetic level of similarity, power, success, etc.
society as a collection of single interactions
society as a process of push and shove throughout time
society as a creation of a greater power which was set in motion and left or is still operating and guiding
society as a collection of interactive force fields which cause regional nodes and act off of one another
society as a playing out of sexual forces and dominance/submissiveness
society as a set of standard life processes (eating, reproduction, etc.) and the resultant complex of interactions
society as an evolutionary process of survival of the fittest
society as a form of follow the leader with the leaders determining the shape and destiny of mankind in any given period
society as a process of economic/market forces which push and pull the system in different directions producing a complex interplay of action
society as a constant testing of the limits of nature with changes taking place once a particular movement hits a limit and retracts or falls to start again
society as a complex set of interacting individual spheres of influence in the rational fulfillment of needs
society as an interlocking set of primitive rules which are embellished and constantly change by consensus and produce the indeterminate movements of society over time
society as an experimental process controlled by beings external to the process
society as a cooperative process of give and take which moves the process along in an attempt to survive against external limits and forces which would destroy the fabric
society as describable by a set of mathematical equations which we have not yet discovered
society as a simple set of action and reaction throughout the system creating complex buildups and troughs
Ways of Working with Example
Some of these may be far fetched (or not). Select one whether you believe in it or not
and defend it against the others or against the main sociological theories of society (past and present) in the following ways:
1. Indicate the assumptions about man and about social interaction on which the theory is built
2. Show data or instances which support the view you have selected
3. Show areas which can not be substantiated but might be 'proved' given certain
parameters, findings, research.
4. Show discrepancies between the other theories and inconsistencies within each
theory which would indicate logical or other problems with the theories
5. Show how your selected theory is superior to the other theories and back it up with examples and solid evidence
6. Develop at least one test which would help substantiate your theory
7. Be able to take a test on each of the past or present theories of the field
as the semester proceeds to show that you understand the major points of the
theories, the major assumptions of man and society on which the theories are
built and their strengths and weaknesses (which of course you will use to
support your own theory)
8. Develop and indicate the logical basis for your chosen theory
9. Give at least 7 rules or ways in which your chosen theory works in society to produce what we observe in the world
Example II - The Disappearance of Neanderthal Man
Reasons for the disappearance of one species of man (Neanderthal) living in the same area
at more or less the same time as another species - Cro-Magnon Man (anatomically similar to modern man or to put it another way -
a name given to modern man, to distinguish him from Neanderthal, living in Europe between 35,000-10,000 B.P.)
More aggressive vs less aggressive - the more aggressive tended to survive.
Less varied diet which when decreased led to starvation.
Less organized living - small groups which were vulnerable against the more organized society of Cro-Magnon (modern) man.
Had fir and did not use animal skins and were less able to cope with a hard cold period
There was actually never two different species of man.
Matriarchal structure could not compete with patriarchal.
Lived in caves which were increasingly taken over by modern man and did not have constructed shelter
Genetic structure different leading to different reaction to a disease which swept through Europe
Less procreation for a number of reasons - genetic, social structure prohibiting
multiple partners in a small community and restrictive sexual norms, lower fertility, social prohibition on multiple offspring.
Gradual reduction of hunting space through encroachment by modern man on territory
Assimilation into the dominant society of Cro-Magnon (modern man)
Still exist in isolated pockets (Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot, Yowie, Sasquatch.
See Ways of Working with Example of Example I above and adapt it to the present example
HUMANS AND NEANDERTARS WERE CONTEMPORARY
Who Were the Neandertals
and What Happened to Them?
Crypto-bipedal-Primatotolgy ... Sasquatch - The Truth as I Know It Site worth looking at regarding known evidence and current thinking on subject.
Selective References - General Problem Solving
Stanford - An Introductory Handbook for Faculty, Academic Staff-Teaching
and Teaching Assistants Revised 2001
This url will give you the correct url to try for an html version of the above handbook
Teaching and Learning via the Network
Application of "Knowledge Management" Concepts to the Interdisciplinary Area of Biotechnology
"...This project will serve as a prototype for the library's role in the application of "knowledge management" concepts to a "problem-solving" instruction model in biotechnology."
Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin-Madison, Indiana University, Iowa State, individuals and staff University of Technology, Sydney
Links to a Better Education
Also see: Description of the scientific method
Problem Solving Program
"The Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP) engages students in creative problem solving. Founded by creativity pioneer, Dr. E. Paul Torrance, FPSP stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages students to develop a vision for the future."
Future Problem Solving Program - US & Non US Programs
Future Problem Solving Program
2005-06 Topics & Calendar Climate Change/Climate Threat,
Freedom of Speech, Nutrition, Healthcare Access, Redistribution of Wealth
21st Century Problem Solving - A modern approach to reliable
problem solving across the curriculum. Highly evaluated series of problems for all grades and methods of
problem solving in math
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