Problem Identification: Analyzing the Problem

In-depth rubric explanations, examples, and video exemplars.


Highest Quality Rating (4 points)

Problem identified, cause identified, and a cause is situated in larger policy or social context in a clear and explicit fashion.

Example: An example of this includes situating a discussion of high school “dropout” rates within broader discussions of systemic racism and/or the ways that racism functions in schools. Another example of this may be connecting their local problem to issues and movements addressing similar problems across the country

Video Example: Although water is a resource needed for life, water is a finite resource. California, like much of the west, is going through a multi-year drought the worst in 12,000 years. This lingering issue will have implications far beyond the west coast. This not only for the people in the room but it not only affects the state of California. Yes, this issue addresses every citizen in the United States because 40 out of 50 states will undergo a drought in the next decade…we chose the challenge of balancing the water budget in southern California.” This is exemplary because it names the problem as: Balancing the water budget. The team also provided convincing evidence of the extent of the problem: the scarcity of water in is an immediate issue in California but also will become a significant concern in 40 out of 50 other states across the country.

Higher Quality Rating (3 points)

Problem identified and cause of problem identified. Presentation does not clearly and explicitly situate the cause of the problem in a larger policy or social context

Example: Students attempt to situate their problem in a broader context, but the connections do not seem to match up. For example, students who discuss high school “dropout” rates might present differences across various student races and ethnic groups but not explore causes for why those different rates exist.

Video Example: “The food options in our community drastically effect our culture’s eating habits. Thus causing the highest diabetes and obesity rates in our nation’s capital….We are F.R.E.S.H. DC. Finding Real and Equitable Solutions to Health in DC. Our mission is to integrate nutritious and delicious meals into our community.” This example is high quality because it identifies the problem as: Food option in our community drastically affect eating habits, thus causing diabetes and obesity. This presentation was rated as high quality but not exemplary because: the explanation only provides limited analysis of the causes of the problem.  Students identify that liquor stores and corner stores outnumber healthy food stores in their community, but do not discuss the social and political reasons for that imbalance. If the students had explored reasons why there is an overabundance of liquor stores in one community, or why there is a food desert in certain neighborhoods, then their analysis of the problem would be higher level.

Mid-Quality Rating (2 points)

Problem identified, no clear cause identified (none at all or too many unfocused and unrelated.

Example: Students’ analysis of dropout rates as a focal problem is limited to student performance. Students pay  no attention to school context, societal, or systemic factors. Or, their analysis lists so many factors contributing to dropouts that the observer does not have a clear sense of their point of view or analysis.

Video Example: In this presentation, the students identify multiple possible causes without integrating them into a coherent perspective of analysis.. The audience is left to wonder if the cause of the problem they identify is poverty, gangs, or poor park maintenance.

Lower Quality Rating (1 point)

Presentation does not identify a problem or it identifies so many problems that the focus of the presentation is unclear.

Example: Students discuss low performance of test scores, but do not directly state that it is a problem. Or students might begin discussing dropout rates and then transition to identifying student college rates and high stakes testing performance as problems as well.

Video Example: In this example the students present multiple problems that are not integrated into a coherent framework.  It is unclear what is contributing to racial bias, increased discipline for students of color in schools, and tense relationships between police and students of color in the LA area. The students address the research questions by highlighting data collected from their survey and analyze the data through a theoretical framework that looks at racial bias. However, it is unclear how racial bias operates within particular contexts and systems.