Dilemma Based Learning:
An example for the Holocaust
This activity comes from Julia Huber who teaches in Wandsworth.
The example is an activity used with Y9 to learn about The Holocaust but it is an example of a wider approach to teaching and learning.
As Julia’s notes are self-explanatory I will hand over to her.
I have used dilemma-based learning to promote problem-solving and independent thinking skills with a range of classes and year-groups. I started using dilemmas because I think they are incredibly useful in developing students’ thinking and more specifically decision-making skills. In a dilemma the process of making a complex decision is made apparent and the range of factors that impact upon a decision become explicit and thus hopefully clearer to the students. I work in a school in which students are incredibly bad at making “wise” decisions. In their everyday lives they often respond instinctively and make choices without thinking it through. That’s why they end up in conflicts or arguments that are unnecessary and silly. I am hoping that by seeing how a decision can be thought through and reflected upon they might be more able to do so in their everyday lives.
Moreover, I think dilemma-based activities help students appreciate the kind of tough choices people had to make in the past and promote empathy. It’s really important to try and get students into the frame of mind of the people at the time. I try to use pictures or maybe a little clip of a film that shows life at the time. Also the person whose dilemma they take on should be as “close” to them as possible. So, they can really imagine themselves in their shoes and engage. Then it’s really effective in getting them to understand people in the past and how they made difficult choices.
Our kids are not good at discussions generally, never mind reaching a shared decision. So, it is hard work the first time. However, I think the kids did benefit and appreciate the process. And they get better the more they do it. A-level students were actually the best “first-timers” and really enjoyed (and got) it straight away.