Foundations of Constructivism/Case Examples/Chapter 6.2

CHAPTER 6.2: Constructivism in Chemical Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, (CBRN)



This unit is to coordinate previous learning into a comprehensive scenario driven Chemical Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, (CBRN) event. The student must be able to use the process of academic inquiry for successful completion of the unit and be employed as a viable response member and leader.

Course Description


The aim of this course is to develop an academic inquiry process designed to enable the learner to develop critical thinking. The learning outcomes are based upon critical thinking and involve: a process that is not random or haphazard but rather focused and structured. If we look at critical thinking, an integral element of academic inquiry, we can find many different models presented in the literature —one of which is found in the "Role of Critical Thinking". If we analyze the methods involved in thinking critically, solving problems, making decisions, and conducting research in preparation for writing a paper or creating a briefing, we will find that each is nothing more than a structured academic inquiry process. The process starts with a question or a problem about which one needs to - gather information and determine assumptions; - analyze the information garnered from various points of view; - draw conclusions or determine solutions; - determine the implications and consequences of the conclusion or solution.

The grade level for this unit is Post Secondary at the Associate through Bachelor Degree level.

The noted philosopher John Dewey (1938) describes the process of academic inquiry as a controlled or directed transformation of discrete bits and pieces of information or situations with no apparent connections or relationships into a unified and meaningful whole.

My assessment method is scenario driven

Constructivist Principles and Pedagogy


The processes for thinking critically, solving problems, making decisions, and conducting research are very structured, not all of the processes are necessarily sequential (or linear).

Knowledge construction; “Given an objective to be obtained a student must have experience that give him the opportunity to practice the kind of behavior implied by the objective .” (Tyler, 1949) The learner must have had previous experience in Hazardous Materials Incident Response at the Operational Level. This certification can be gained either from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), Professional Qualification Board (PROBOARD) or Department of Defense CERTEST.

The learner will be guided by Bloom’s Taxonomy and using analysis and Synthesis although they are really two elements of a six stage hierarchy of how we acquire and use information. These six elements are usually titled: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. This unit will require higher order thinking in the realms of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

creativity and innovation. Leaders have many key roles in developing an organization and having the organization reach its full potential. Leaders must understand that they have responsibilities that are required at various levels within the organization. Just as each person in an organization has distinct personalities and traits, organizational leaders have distinct goals.

In most organizations, a clear mission and vision will be established. The organizational leader focuses on mission accomplishment while the strategic leader focuses on vision. critical thinking, inquiry and problem solving, As part of the critical thinking process, the learner should be able to Analyze, Plan, Implement and Evaluate each course of action to determine the best results and fewest numbers of exposures or casualties at a CBRN Incident. communication, collaboration, and community building, As we look at the organizational leader his focus must not only be on mission accomplishment, but also the team building concept. The organizational leader must ensure his subordinates have a clear understanding of the mission, means to accomplish the mission and resources necessary to ensure mission accomplishment.

The organizational leader may also have multiple missions that require a staff that is capable of interacting with various other staffs and agencies. While organizational leaders primarily exert direct influence through their chain of command and staff, they extend influence beyond their chain of command and organizations by other means (FM 6-22, 11-7, OCT 2006).

Organizational leaders must display various traits of leadership to influence their subordinates, integrity and compassion are key.



Authentic (real-world) learning and assessment, The student will be assessed through numerous interactions with instructors at various phases of their development. Each development point has nationally established forms in the Incident Management System and Incident Command System. The main criteria will be presentation of an Emergency Action Plan and the learner will be assessed on its viability by actually executing the plan in a training environment. The goal is to minimize exposures and casualties. If the students plan is successful, then he has achieved the objective of the course.

Embedded interactive technologies, The interactive technologies are computerized reports, use of the Gas Chromatograph / Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS), Monitoring Equipment and communications skills written and oral. student initiative and responsibility Student initiative and responsibility are the key to this unit. The student must take the initiative to develop an action plan, ensure all key members are in place i.e. safety officer, incident commander, survey team.



All-Hazards Term that encompasses domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies

Branch Plan A modification to an existing plan that usually adjusts the required resources or concept of operations. However, the end-state normally remains the same. For example, an existing plan calls for delivering medical supplies by rail transport but the situation prevents using rail, delivering the supplies by air transport or a combination of air and road transport represent a “branch” plan. See “sequel plan.” Catastrophic Incident Any natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other manmade disaster that results in extraordinary levels of casualties or damage or disruption severely affecting the population (including mass evacuations), infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, or government functions in an area.

Contingency Planning Planning that occurs before the incident or in the pre-incident phase. A contingency plan provides guidance for conducting operations.

Course of Action (COA) Means available to the decision maker by which the objectives may be attained. A course of action is a broadly stated, potential solution to an assigned mission. A systems analysis usually considers several possible courses of action, which are then referred to as alternatives or as the decision maker's options.

Crisis Action PlanningA planning approach that outlines incident priorities, objectives, and initial actions, and drives the development of supporting plans. Initial activities may include search and rescue, evacuations, communication of key information to the public, restoration of essential critical infrastructure, and provision of community law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services among others.

Functional Planning Planning approach that identifies the common tasks that the community must perform during emergencies.

Hazard A source of potential danger or harm, often the root cause of an unwanted outcome.

Homeland Security Management System (HSMS)A continuous cycle of four phased activities, including guidance, planning, execution, and assessment and evaluation.

Incident An occurrence or event, natural or manmade, that requires a response to protect life or property. Incidents can, for example, include major disasters, emergencies, terrorist attacks, terrorist threats, civil unrest, wildland and urban fires, floods, hazardous materials spills, nuclear accidents, aircraft accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, tsunamis, war-related disasters, public health and medical emergencies, and other occurrences requiring an emergency response.

Lessons Learned A collection and analysis of data from a variety of current and historical sources, including operations and training events, that produces lessons for leaders and practitioners, staffs, and homeland security community at large.

National Incident Management System (NIMS)A system mandated by HSPD-5 that provides a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments; the private sector; and NGOs to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity. To provide for interoperability and compatibility among Federal, State, Tribal, and local capabilities, NIMS includes a core set of concepts, principles, and terminology. HSPD-5 identifies these as the Incident Command System (ICS); multi-agency coordination systems; training; identification and management of resources (including systems for classifying types of resources); qualification and certification; and the collection, tracking, and reporting of incident information and incident resources.

National Planning Scenario (NPS)An event or threat scenario appropriate for national planning by and among all levels and jurisdictions or government, and in coordination with private, non-profit, and volunteer organizations.

Objective A clearly defined, decisive, and attainable goal toward which a homeland security operation is directed.

Operation A homeland security action or the carrying out of a strategic, operational, or tactical homeland security mission.

Operations Plan (OPLAN) A plan that identifies detailed resource, personnel, and asset allocations in order to execute the objectives of the strategic plan and turn strategic priorities into operational execution. An operations plan contains a full description of the concept of operations, including specific roles and responsibilities, tasks, integration, and actions required, with support function annexes as appropriate.40 It represents a product of the operational planning level.

Scenario-Based Planning Planning approach that uses scenarios as a focal point for developing the actions necessary to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from the specific scenario. HSPD-8, Annex I, requires the production of scenario based plans by using the NPSs.

Senior Leader For the purposes of the IPS, the Federal official tasked to oversee homeland security operations under the plan being prepared. For example, the Secretary of Homeland Security would be the senior leader for strategic plans based on the NPSs.

Staff Estimate An estimate that consists of significant facts, events, and conclusions for various functional areas (e.g., information, intelligence, resources, and operations) based on current or anticipated situations.

Task Specific actions that are implemented to achieve the identified objectives.

Tactical Plan The detailed development and identification of individual tasks, actions, and objectives tailored to specific situations and fact patterns at an operational level. Tactical planning is meant to support and achieve the objectives of the operations plan.48 It represents the product of the tactical planning level.

References and Resources


Paul, R. and Elder, L., Critical Thinking

FM 22-100, Army Leadership

FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations

Hubbuch, S., Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum

Cummings, C. (1990). Teaching makes a difference (2nd ed.). Edmonds, WA: Teaching, Inc

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001).

Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Scriven, M. & Paul, R. (2004). Defining critical thinking. A draft statement prepared for the National Counsel for Excellence in Critical Thinking. Retrieved March 29, 2004 from the Foundation for Critical Thinking


PROBLEM SOLVING Extracted from FM 5-0

1. Identify the Problem A problem exists when there is a difference between the current state or condition and a desired state or condition. Army leaders identify problems from a variety of sources. These include— • Higher headquarters directives or guidance. • Decision maker guidance. • Subordinates. • Personal observations.

When identifying the problem, leaders actively seek to identify its root cause, not merely the symptoms on the surface. Symptoms may be the reason that the problem became visible. They are often the first things noticed and frequently require attention. However, focusing on a problem’s symptoms may lead to false conclusions or inappropriate solutions. Using a systematic approach to identifying problems helps avoid the “solving symptoms” pitfall.

To identify the root cause of a problem, leaders do the following: • Compare the current situation to the desired end state. • Define the problem’s scope or boundaries. • Answer the following questions: _ Who does the problem affect? _ What is affected? _ When did the problem occur? _ Where is the problem? _ Why did the problem occur? • Determine the cause of obstacles between here and the solution. Many times the causes of a problem are simply obstacles between the current situation and the desired end state.

• Write a draft problem statement.

• Redefine the problem as necessary as new information is acquired and assessed. After identifying the root causes, leaders develop a problem statement. A problem statement is written as an infinitive phrase: such as, “To determine the best location for constructing a multipurpose vehicle wash rack facility during this fiscal year.” When the problem under consideration is based upon a directive from a higher authority, it is best to submit the problem statement to the decision maker for approval. This ensures the problem solver has understood the decision maker’s guidance before continuing. Once they have developed the problem statement, leaders make a plan to solve the problem. Leaders make the best possible use of available time and allocate time for each problem-solving step. Doing this provides a series of deadlines to meet in solving the problem. Leaders use reverse planning to prepare their problem solving time line (see Chapter 1). They use this time line to periodically assess their progress. They do not let real or perceived pressure cause them to abandon solving the problem systematically. They change time allocations as necessary, but they do not ignore them.

2. Gather Information After completing the problem statement, leaders continue to gather information relevant to the problem. Gathering information begins with problem definition and continues throughout the problem solving process. Army leaders never stop acquiring and assessing the impact of new or additional information. When gathering information, Army leaders define unfamiliar terms. Doing this is particularly important when dealing with technical information. Leaders consider the intended audience in deciding what to define. For example: a product for an audience that includes civilians may require definitions of all Army terms. A technical report prepared for a decision maker unfamiliar with the subject should include definitions the reader needs to know to understand the report.

Army leaders gather information from primary sources whenever possible. Primary sources are people with first-hand knowledge of the subject under investigation, or documents produced by them. Methods of gathering information from primary sources include interviews, letters of request for specific information, and questionnaires. Two types of information are required to solve problems: facts and assumptions. Fully understanding these types of information is critical to understanding problem solving. In addition, Army leaders need to know how to handle opinions and how to manage information when working in a group.

Facts Facts are verifiable pieces of information or information presented that has objective reality. They form the foundation on which the solution to a problem is based. Regulations, policies, doctrinal publications, commander's guidance, plans and orders, personal experience, and the Internet are just a few sources of facts.

Assumptions An assumption is information accepted as true in the absence of facts. This information is probably correct, but cannot be verified. Appropriate assumptions used in decision making have two characteristics: • They are valid, that is, they are likely to be true. • They are necessary, that is, they are essential to continuing the problem solving process.

If the process can continue without making a particular assumption, it is discarded. So long as an assumption is both valid and necessary, it is treated as a fact. Problem solvers continually seek to confirm or deny the validity of their assumptions. Opinions

When gathering information, Army leaders evaluate opinions carefully. An opinion is a personal judgment that the Army leader or another individual makes. Opinions cannot be totally discounted. They are often the result of years of experience. Army leaders objectively evaluate opinions to determine whether to accept them as facts, include them as opinions, or reject them. Army leaders neither routinely accept opinions as facts nor reject them as irrelevant—regardless of their source.

Organizing Information Army leaders check each piece of information to verify its accuracy. If possible, two individuals should check and confirm the accuracy of facts and the validity of assumptions.

Being able to establish whether a piece of information is a fact or an assumption is of little value if those working on the problem do not know the information exists. Army leaders share information with the decision maker, subordinates, and peers, as appropriate. A proposed solution to a problem is only as good as the information that forms the basis of the solution. Sharing information among members of a problem solving team increases the likelihood that a team member will uncover the information that leads to the best solution.

Organizing information includes coordination with units and agencies that may be affected by the problem or its solution. Army leaders determine these as they gather information. They coordinate with other leaders as they solve problems, both to obtain assistance and to keep others informed of situations that may affect them. Such coordination may be informal and routine: for example, a squad leader checking with the squad on his right to make sure their fields of fire overlap; or it may be formal, as when a division action officer staffs a decision paper with the major subordinate commands. As a minimum, Army leaders always coordinate with units or agencies that might be affected by a solution they propose before they present it to the decision maker.

3. Develop Criteria The next step in the problem solving process is developing criteria. A criterion is a standard, rule, or test by which something can be judged—a measure of value. Problem solvers develop criteria to assist them in formulating and evaluating possible solutions to a problem. Criteria are based on facts or assumptions. Problem solvers develop two types of criteria: screening and evaluation criteria.

Screening Criteria Army leaders use screening criteria to ensure solutions being considered can solve the problem. Screening criteria defines the limits of an acceptable solution. As such, they are tools to establish the baseline products for analysis. A solution may be rejected based solely on the application of screening criteria. Five categories of screening criteria are commonly applied to test a possible solution: • Suitability—solves the problem and is legal and ethical. • Feasibility—fits within available resources. • Acceptability—worth the cost or risk. • Distinguishability—differs significantly from other solutions. • Completeness—contains the critical aspects of solving the problem from start to finish.

Evaluation Criteria After developing screening criteria, the problem solver develops the evaluation criteria in order to differentiate among possible solutions. Well-defined evaluation criteria have five elements: • Short Title—the criterion name. • Definition—a clear description of the feature being evaluated. • Unit of Measure—a standard element used to quantify the criterion. Examples of units of measure are US dollars, miles per gallon, and feet. • Benchmark—a value that defines the desired state, or "good" for a solution in terms of a particular criterion. • Formula—an expression of how changes in the value of the criterion affect the desirability of the possible solution. State the formula in comparative terms (for example, more is better) or absolute terms (for example, a night movement is better than a day movement). A well-thought-out benchmark is critical for meaningful analysis. Analysis judges a solution against a standard, telling whether that solution is good in an objective sense. It differs from comparison, which judges possible solutions against each other telling us whether it is better, or worse in a relative sense. Benchmarks are the standards used in such analysis. They may be prescribed by regulations or guidance from the decision maker. Sometimes, the benchmark can be inferred by the tangible return expected from the problem’s solution. Often, however, Army leaders establish benchmarks themselves. Four common methods for doing this are— • Reasoning—the benchmark is based on personal experience and his or her judgment as to what would be good. • Historical precedent—the benchmark is based on relevant examples of prior success. • Current example—the benchmark is based on an existing condition, which is considered desirable. • Averaging—the benchmark is based on the mathematical average of the solutions being considered. Averaging is the least preferred of all methods because it essentially duplicates the process of comparison. In practice, the criteria by which choices are made are almost never of equal importance. Because of this it is often convenient to assign weights to each evaluation criterion. Weighting criteria establishes the relative importance of each one with respect to the others. Weighting should reflect the judgment of the decision maker or acknowledged experts as closely as possible. For example, a decision maker or expert might judge that two criteria are equal in importance, or that one criterion is slightly favored in importance, or moderately or strongly favored. If these verbal assessments are assigned numerical values, say from 1 to 4 respectively, mathematical techniques could be used to produce meaningful numerical criteria weights. Additionally, pair wise comparison is an analytical tool that brings objectivity to the process of assigning criteria weights. In performing a pair wise comparison, the decision maker or expert methodically assesses each evaluation criterion against each of the others and judges its relative importance. A computer equipped with simple software easily performs the mathematical algorithms. This process does not in any way diminish the importance of the decision maker's judgment. Rather it enables problem solvers to bring that judgment to bear with greater precision and in problems of greater complexity than might otherwise be possible. Regardless of the method used to assign criteria weights Army leaders state the rationale for each when recommending a solution to the decision maker.

4. Generate Possible Solutions After gathering information relevant to the problem and developing criteria, Army leaders formulate possible solutions. They carefully consider the guidance provided by the commander or their superiors, and develop several alternatives to solve the problem. Several alternatives should be considered, however too many possible solutions may result in wasted time on similar options. Experience and time available determine how many solutions to consider. Army leaders should consider at least two solutions. Doing this enables the problem solver to use both analysis and comparison as problem solving tools. Developing only one solution to “save time” may produce a faster solution, but risks creating more problems from factors not considered. Army leaders follow two steps when developing solutions: • Generate options. • Summarize the solution in writing, sketches, or both. Generate Options Creativity by Army leaders is key to developing effective solutions. Often, groups can be far more creative than individuals However, those working on solutions should have some knowledge of or background in the problem area. The basic technique for developing new ideas in a group setting is brainstorming. Brainstorming is characterized by unrestrained participation in discussion. Its rules include— • State the problem and make sure all participants understand it. • Appoint someone to record all ideas. • Withhold judgment of ideas. • Encourage independent thoughts. • Aim for quantity, not quality. • “Hitchhike” ideas—combine one’s thoughts with those of others. At the conclusion of brainstorming, Army leaders may discard solutions that clearly do not approach the standards described by the screening criteria. If this informal screen leaves only one solution or none, then more options must be generated. Summarize The Solution In Writing And Sketches After generating options, Army leaders accurately record each possible solution. The solution statement clearly portrays how the action or actions solve the problem. In some circumstances, the solution statement may be a single sentence (for example, “Purchase Model XYZ computers”). In other circumstance the solution statement may require more detail, including sketches or concept diagrams. For example, if the problem is to develop a multipurpose small-arms range, Army leaders may choose to portray each solution with a narrative and a separate sketch or blueprint of each proposed range.

5. Analyze Possible Solutions Having identified possible solutions, Army leaders analyze each one to determine its merits and drawbacks. If criteria are well defined, to include careful selection of benchmarks, analysis is greatly simplified. Army leaders use screening criteria and benchmarks to analyze possible solutions. They apply screening criteria to judge whether a solution meets minimum requirements. For quantitative criteria, they measure, compute, or estimate the raw data values for each solution and each criterion. In analyzing solutions, which involve predicting future events, it is useful to have a process for visualizing those events. Wargaming, models, and simulations are examples of tools that can help problem solvers visualize events and estimate raw data values for use in analysis. Once raw data values have been determined, the Army leader judges them against applicable screening criteria to determine if a possible solution merits further consideration. A solution that fails to meet or exceed the set threshold of one or more screening criteria is screened out. After applying the screening criteria to all possible solutions, they use benchmarks to judge them with respect to the desired state. Data values that meet or exceed the benchmark indicate that the possible solution achieves the desired state and thus is "good" with respect to that criterion. Data values that fail to meet the benchmark indicate a solution that is not good in terms of the identified criterion. For each solution, Army leaders list the respects in which analysis reveals it to be good or not good. It is quite possible for every possible solution being considered to fail to reach the benchmark, and so be considered not good in terms of a particular criterion. When this occurs, the Army leader has an obligation to point out to the decision maker that there are no good solutions under consideration in that particular respect. Army leaders are careful not to compare solutions during analysis. To do so undermines the integrity of the process and tempts problem solvers to jump to conclusions. They examine each possible solution independently to identify its strengths and weaknesses. They are also careful not to introduce new criteria.

6. Compare Possible Solutions During this step, Army leaders compare each solution against the others to determine the optimum solution. Solution comparison identifies which solution best solves the problem based on the evaluation criteria. Army leaders use any comparison technique that helps reach the best recommendation. The most common technique is a decision matrix (see Chapter 3). Quantitative techniques (such as decision matrices, select weights, and sensitivity analyses) may be used to support comparisons. However, they are tools to support the analysis and comparison. They are not the analysis and comparison themselves. The quantitative techniques should be summarized clearly so the reader need not refer to an annex for the results.

7. Make and Implement the Decision After completing their analysis and comparison, Army leaders identify the preferred solution. For simple problems, Army leaders may proceed straight to executing the solution. For more complex problems, a leader plan of action or formal plan may be necessary (see FM 22-100). If a superior assigned the problem, Army leaders prepare the necessary products (verbal, written, or both) needed to present the recommendation to the decision maker. Before presenting findings and a recommendation, Army leaders coordinate their recommendation with those affected by the problem or the solutions. In formal situations, Army leaders present their findings and recommendations to the decision maker as staff studies, decision papers, or decision briefings.

A good solution can be lost if the Army leader cannot persuade the audience that it is correct. Every problem requires both a solution and the ability to communicate it. The writing and briefing skills an Army leader possesses may ultimately be as important as good problem solving skills.

Based on the decision maker’s decision and final guidance, Army leaders refine the solution and prepare necessary implementing instructions. Formal implementing instructions can be issued as a memorandum of instruction, policy letter, or command directive. Once Army leaders have given instructions, Army leaders monitor their implementation and compare results to the criteria of success and the desired end state established in the approved solution. When necessary, they issue additional instructions. A feedback system that provides timely and accurate information, periodic review, and the flexibility to adjust must also be built into the implementation plan. Army leaders stay involved, and are careful not to create new problems because of uncoordinated implementation of the solution. Army problem solving does not end with identifying the best solution or obtaining approval of a recommendation. It ends when the problem is solved

Chapter Quiz


1. What does the Acronym CBRN mean?

2. Academic inquiry starts with a question or problem. The process has initial needs, what are they?

3. The process of academic inquiry is a controlled or _________ transformation of discrete bits and pieces of information or situations with _____ apparent connections or relationships into a unified and meaningful whole.

4. What will require a higher order of thinking for this unit? (essay 100 words or less)