April 02, 2016
Exploring Narrative Empathy With Solution Fluency
The 6Ds of Solution Fluency have applications that reach way beyond schoolwork. Over the last few years, the Global Digital Citizen Foundation has introduced this process to schools all over the world. Since then, a shift in the way students approach life—not just schoolwork—has begun to happen.
We've discovered practical examples of students using Solution Fluency all over. They use it for everything from project engineering on a community-wide scale to resolving personal relationship conflicts, and more. It's a process with an exceptional versatility.
Solution Fluency is applicable to the best inquiry- and project-based learning initiatives we can take with students. A great example of this is the stellar work done at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario.
Solution Fluency in Narrative Empathy
The students at Father Michael McGivney were already well acquainted with the process of Solution Fluency. It has been the guiding curriculum goal in the school for the last two years. They began to use it to explore projects focused on narrative empathy,
McGivney English teacher Alexandra Parlagreco, along with Cynthia Anniballi, head of the McGivney English department, both had a vision. They wanted Solution Fluency to guide the students toward an understanding of this important literary device.
A lesson like this could easily be seen as boring or disengaging, at least by our digital students' standards. The pathway to students achieving an appreciation for the subject matter had to be thorough, meaningful, and enjoyable.
"When it comes to any inquiry, students should have freedom to explore a topic in whatever scope or facet the inquiry takes them," Alexandra says. "We did not limit what capacity they would research narrative empathy.”
Beginning the Journey
In the first stage of Solution Fluency (Define), Alexandra and her students explored narrative empathy with the BBC documentary Why Reading Matters (here on Vimeo). This first step also included an exploration of the students' assumptions and personal reflections on what makes us laugh, cry, hate, and so on.
Once students had a firm grasp on the topic of narrative empathy, they completed a Define activity. This featured a Google website designed to lay out stages of the 6D inquiry process for students. It also called for them to reflect on what results they might encounter in the upcoming research or Discover stage.
Going in Deeper
The students on this project were given plenty of freedom in gathering research for the Discovery stage. This included recording opinions using forms created in Google Surveys.
"We gave students a selection of scholarly articles for their research as well as a CBC radio broadcast which discussed how two video games, RIOT and Spirits of Spring, create empathy through their design and game premise," Alexandra recalls. "Due to the students’ freedom to apply their thesis to any narrative that interested them, they came up with some amazing theses that explored a variety of narrative forms."
Coming in for a Landing
The next three stages of Solution Fluency—Dream, Design, and Deliver—were grouped together. They were done at separate intervals in the students' movement towards examining narrative empathy. Alexandra and her colleagues wanted to ensure students had the freedom to demonstrate multiple intelligences. They were to choose mediums that showcased their discoveries and reflections in the best way possible (an essential component of Media Fluency).
Each stage of their Solution Fluency inquiry process was completed at a different point in the semester. Students were treated to consistent feedback before the completion of the final stage. Teachers felt that this approach was crucial, since it showed students that the process of inquiry "takes time and can evolve drastically from beginning to end."
Below are some examples of the narrative empathy projects by McGivney students. The projects they chose included:
- comic books
According to Alexandra, both teachers and students had some interesting (and encouraging!) observations for the Debriefing of their experiences. Here's what the Grade 12 McGivney teachers discovered for themselves:
- “Narrative empathy” is an important topic that many Ontario universities focus on in faculties of Humanities and Literary Studies. They knew that introducing this kind of topic was going to be challenging yet beneficial for university level students.
- Some teachers felt the inquiry process had too many steps (which led them to combine some so that they could customize teaching to each stage of the process).
- Other teachers enjoyed the longer multi-step process because it made the project more manageable for the students.
- They observed the level of student engagement was high because of the freedoms they had to choose a medium that showcased their individual strengths.
And how about the students?
How did the Solution Fluency inquiry process allow me to understand the concept of narrative empathy?
“The Solution Fluency inquiry process allowed me to understand the concept of narrative empathy better because I had to work through the stages of the process.”
How did the research influence or guide my inquiry process? In what ways did it hinder my thinking process?
“The research I conducted guided me on my inquiry as it allowed me to see a different perspective, the perspective of a scientist. It gave logical explanations as to why people empathize with a character.”
Explore Solution Fluency in Your Own PBL
You can follow in the footsteps of the kids and teachers at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy yourself. Explore the Solution Fluency Activity Planner. It features a guided process to help you visualize and deliver your best inquiry and project-based learning creations ever!
Special thanks to Alexandra Parlagreco for her contributions and time in the completion of this article.