Thursday, 17 May 2007

How to perform problem tree analysis

I worked with students today on creating Problem trees as part of using the Logical Framework (log frame) methodology in my Policy Evaluation class. This was our final class and I was happy to get something quite interactive going for students - they seem to enjoy this and a few even yearn actually doing something.

The technique is a simple one but rewarding (genuine hat-tip to Dagmar of Slovak Evaluation specialist D&D Consulting, who has used it in a training session we did for local policy makers): you use little cards to write down problems you wish to adress with a public policy intervention (this works reasonably well at any level - strategy, policy, programme, project). You tease out additional cards by asking the WHY question - i.e. why does this problem happen.

Now the trick part: on the back of each card you write an objective associated with resolving the problem - often is as simple as turning a "Too little of XY" into "More XY".

You then work hard to arrange problems according to causality - working from an effect at the top through a focal problem somewhere in the middle all the way to problems, which are the underlying causes.

You then simply flip the card over and voila you have a Goals analysis - a hierarchic ordering of goals you can transfer into a logical framework matrix. Neat.

I have (and I imagine my senior colleagues do as well) a few hangups about using interactive methods in teaching. In my Economics MSc. in Scotland we NEVER did anything remotely interactive - no group work, no in-class presentations and believe it or not, not a single essay (other than the dissertation, of course). But then the university gave the world Adam Smith so maybe they knew what they were doing. Our econ programme shared the building (or rather was a guest) of the Edinburgh MBA Programme and the management students were all about interactive methods while seemingly not so much into "substance".

Apparently, despite a lack of organisation to my Policy Evaluation course, the practical bits were very well received by students. Every time I teach or train I relearn the same lesson: students (at least Slovaks) of all ages love interactive teaching. We have been exposed to so little of it in our school system that we are grateful to learn anything practical and get to actually do and say things in class rather than have to listen to lectures and repeat them back in oral exams.