Q&A with Philosophy Professor Judit Török

Faculty across disciplines are using Story Tracker to expose their students to 21st century problems through the lens of solutions. Judit Török is the Director of the Teaching and Learning Commons as Berkeley College, and she also teaches online courses for CUNY Schools of Professional Studies and Worcester State University. Here’s how she integrated solutions into her critical thinking and ethics courses, and how her students responded:

How did you learn about Story Tracker and SolutionsU?

JT: The first time I heard about the Story Tracker was at Ashoka U a few years ago. Then I followed up with Taylor Nelson, who generously guided me through the many interesting features and functionalities of the site.

What inspired you to integrate solutions journalism stories into your teaching?

JT: The curriculum materials for the critical thinking course were a bit dry and outdated. My students learn to analyze arguments and logical fallacies, but the examples in the textbook were very “textbook-y.” I wanted to bring in content that would engage the students, and I found the solutions stories to be more relevant and current.

Did you use Story Tracker for just one or two assignments?

JT: Actually, the students read and critically analyze solutions-focused stories for ten of the 15 weeks of the semester. I select an article from the Solutions Story Tracker and ask the students to identify the main point, the argument, the thesis and the other aspects of critical thinking that we focus on during that week. In addition to engaging critically with the articles, students have the opportunity to share their opinions about the solution itself. That’s what really hooks them; they really get into the content of the article itself.

You’ve shared the final assignment for this class as a SolutionsU Educator Resource. Can you tell us a bit about that assignment?

JT: The final project builds on the critical solutions discussions we’d had over the course of the semester. For the assignment — Critical Thinking for Solution Based Social Challenges — I ask the students to decide on a social issue or topic they feel strongly about, and then to select one solutions-based story from Story Tracker to analyze and critique. Using a seven-step process, the students reconstruct the argument in the story and then critically evaluate the solution.

How did your students respond to these assignments, and to using Story Tracker?

JT: They loved it! I ask my students at the end of every semester what they would change about the course, and what they liked the most. I consistently hear that the Solutions Story Tracker was one of the highlights of the class.

Student learning outcomes are at the heart of educational assessment. Has integrating solutions-based resources into your teaching improved your students’ learning outcomes?

JT: Yes, I believe engaging with real-world problems and solutions and making connections from course content to social engagement improve students’ motivation to learn, which is directly linked with improved student outcomes.

How else has learning about how people around the world are working to solve problems benefitted your students?

JT: My students are definitely more engaged and more inspired. They connect these stories to their own lives and many of them express interest in wanting to be more involved, perhaps by volunteering or donating to organizations that are featured in the articles.

What are your future plans for using Solutions Story Tracker in these or other courses?

JT: I include Story Tracker articles in all other classed that I teach. For example, in my ethics courses student learn to analyze the solution-based articles from the Story Tracker using different moral philosophical lenses. I’m also finalizing a blog that will feature my student work as well as my assignments and reflections on these pedagogical practices.

Are you an educator who wants your students to learn about how people around the world are working to solve society’s toughest challenges? Visit SolutionsU for collections of stories with discussion questions, assignments, syllabi and teaching modules.

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