In Practice: Identifying and Framing an Issue

identifying-and-framing-an-issueWe can begin to identify and frame an issue by choosing a topic we’re concerned about (a concern that arises from your story of self and story of now discussion), learn more about the concern in order to identify a key issue within it, and then frame that issue in a way that addresses the frames that others hold about the issue.

Step 1:  Identify a concern.  

Think about the part of it that impacts you the most. Try to move from broad topic to a more narrow and focused issue.

Here’s one example:

concern:  Standardized testing is causing huge problems for teachers and students.The number of standardized tests are overwhelming students, teachers, and administrators. Students are stressed and upset about taking them; teachers are so pressured to have students do well that they begin to feel they have to teach directly to the tests; administrators have to produce high results to the school boards and public. All this is diminishing the creativity of teachers and students:  both in terms of pedagogy and disciplinary content.

Step 2: Narrowing the concern to an issue that connects to your context.

Begin to narrow the concern, considering several issues within the bigger topic. Think about how those issues impact you and your students.  For example:

Issue 1:  Standardized testing is promoting certain ways of thinking.  I worry that my students who grow up in a context of multiple choice responses will not truly become active, critically thinking citizens.

Issue 2:  Standardized testing takes away too many weeks of schooling each year, time that could be better spent with actual instruction.

Issue 3:  Assessing teachers on a student’s performance on a single standardized test is an unfair picture of a teacher’s quality.

Keep in mind that a focus on one issue doesn’t mean you can’t focus on another at a later time. Narrowing, though, helps you get the kind of specificity you’ll need to be able to create an action plan down the road that can lead to some change.

Step 3:  Framing the issue. 

Think about how the issue is framed at present (think about news articles you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, what you’ve heard others say about it on the sideline of soccer games or at a dinner party). What do you understand about the issue and how do you see others understanding it.  (You might want to look into the FrameWorks Institute’s research that identifies various frames surrounding education and conclusions about those that seem to work best.) Ask yourself:  what do want the public to understand in order to create a change? How can you present your concern in a way that will speak to the public’s understanding?