Global Issues Problem Solving
The Global Issues Problem Solving begins when a school registers one or more teams and finds coaches - usually, but not necessarily, teachers - to work with team members. Coaches and teams work together to learn and practise the skills involved in the six-stage creative problem solving process. They then apply these skills gradually during the year to a series of futuristic situations on internationally set, significant social, economic, or scientific issues. There are competitive and non-competitive options.
Teams of four to six students (4 only in Qualifying Problem) in Years 5-12 work with coaches who assist them in gathering information and refining their problem solving and communication. After thoroughly researching a topic, students analyse a one-page future scene, which describes a situation which looks at specific area of the broader topic. This future scene is normally set about forty years in the future. The students then write up their six-stage analysis using a special booklet proforma.
During the year teams work on three topics. The completed booklets are mailed to evaluators who score the work and return it with both praise and suggestions for improvement. This feedback is one of the major strengths of the program, for it leads students to growth and improvement. The competition motivates the students, but learning is the ultimate goal.
The diverse range of scientific, economic and social topics is chosen annually by a vote of students, coaches and Affiliate Directors. Some past topics include Space Junk, Genetic Testing, Neurotechnology, Megacities and Social Relationships.
Of the three problems which students complete each year, the first two are practice only, with the evaluators' scores and comments serving as a means of helping students improve. The third problem is competitive and must be completed within two hours with only 4 team members. The top scoring teams receive invitations to participate in the Australian National Final, which is held in October. Winning teams in each of the three divisions are invited to attend the Future Problem Solving International Conference. The National Committee is also able to offer invitations to second-place getters on the basis of Australia's high number of FPS registrations.
There is a separate competition in all divisions for individual students should this be more suitable for their needs.
The annual International FPS Conference is held in June in the USA. Approximately 2500 students and their coaches convene for four days of competitive problem solving, cooperative educational seminars and cultural exchange.
Community groups of either children or adults who are not attached to a school.
Non-competitive and Non school-based booklet teams generally do three future scenes during the year. This allows teams to begin at any stage throughout the year. As in the Regular Program, teams research the topic, complete a team booklet, submit it for evaluation by the due date and receive written evaluation of their work. However, they have more time to complete each Problem as teams and individuals are not eligible to be invited to participate in the Australian Final in October. Team size is flexible.
How are the booklets marked?
The Evaluation Co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring that all booklets are evaluated properly and returned to schools by the dates indicated in the Registration Handbook. The processing of booklets takes place on specified weekends and since he also works full-time in a school, Murray is grateful if schools can co-operate by making sure that booklets are submitted to the FPSP office on time.
Once booklets are received, they are sent out anonymously to evaluators in groups or bundles of 3-7 booklets, depending upon the number of booklets and available evaluators in that round. Evaluators only know teams by their team codes and coaches will only know the evaluator by their evaluator number used on the scoresheets. Great care is taken to ensure that no evaluator (teacher or senior student) marks any booklet from their own school. Booklets from each state / territory are mixed randomly to ensure comparability.
The international system of FPS evaluation, particularly in the Competitive program, is centred on the ranking of the booklets within the bundle. In order to allow for the inevitable subjectivity in the evaluation of any written work based on the concept of thinking and ideas, coaches need to emphasise with their teams that it is not the total score that counts, but their ranking. The evaluation system centres on the principle that different evaluators will rank the one bundle of booklets in the same way, regardless of what scores they give. So, if a school has two teams marked by different evaluators, and both are ranked second in their respective bundles, it does not mean that the booklet that has a higher raw score is necessarily better: they would have to be marked by the same evaluator in the same bundle to determine that.
Booklets in the non-competitive section are marked alone in that they are not ranked against others in the evaluators bundle. In both the competitive and non-competitive sections, it is the evaluator's comments that should be looked at carefully by the students, not their total score.