Issue Analysis Papers
Environmental Scanning Abstracts
We begin the course by simulating a special task force formed by the Secretary of
Education charged with identifying, analyzing, and making recommendations vis-à-vis the
major issues challenging American public education.
Our first task is to identify these issues by engaging in an environmental scanning
exercise where we will search information resources in the social, technological,
economic, environmental, and political sectors for signals of emerging issues that could
affect education. We will then choose the most salient issues and prepare issue analysis
Format of Issue Analysis Papers
- What is the issue?
- What is the background/context of the issue?
- What are the forces driving the issue?
- Where is the issue going? What are its prospects?
- What are the implications of the issue for public education in the U.S.?
- What should educational leaders do now to prepare for the issue?
Examples of Issue Analysis Papers from past EDSP 287 classes
- Bringing Teachers
and Technology Together in the Classroom: An Overview
- The Implications
of School Choice
- New Directions:
Teachers and Technology For the 21st Century
- Competition to
- Down But Not Out: The Resurgence
of Private Educational Management Organizations
Issue Analysis Teams
In the early weeks of the semester (see schedule below) we will form issue analysis
teams of two to three class members per team. Although you may use any source available in
developing the issue analysis paper, I encourage you to use the search engines available on the
Web as well as conventional library resources. If you are new to searching the Web, there
is a page at http://www.monash.com/spidap.html
that offers information on using search engines efficiently. An advantage of using Web
sources is that references can be linked to original sources via hypertext. In addition,
please subscribe to one mailing list (in addition to Horizon List; see below) as part of
an on-going environmental scanning exercise to keep informed about emerging issues
challenging education. Relevant mailing lists, including instructions as to how to
subscribe to the mailing lists, are posted in the Educational On-Ramp section of
Horizon Home Page. This section includes instructions as to how to subscribe to Horizon
List. Be sure to use proper netiquette
on these lists.
The purpose of the environmental scanning exercise is to identify trends, potential
events, and emerging issues that could affect the future of education.
Trends are a series of social, technological, economic or political
characteristics that can usually be estimated and/or measured over time, such as the
number of single parents in a school district (or in the nation). Trend information may be
used to describe the future, identify emerging issues, and project future events.
Events are discrete, unambiguous, confirmable occurrences that make the future
different than the past. An event would be passage of a regulation requiring the
implementation of a voucher plan in North Carolina within two years.
An emerging issue is a potential controversy that arises out of a trend or event
that may require some form of response. For example, there is increasing discussion over
the benefits and defects of a national curriculum. Elements to this issue include concern
over the viability of public schools, global economic competitiveness, disparity between
haves and have nots, etc.
An issue is a controversy with defined stakeholder interests that requires some
form of action. An issue for public schools, for example, is the controversy over
implementing a voucher plan.
A major purpose of analyzing trends and events is to identify emerging issues that may
affect education. Issues are composed of trends and events. You may, therefore, want to
include a statement of the issue and the trends and events comprising that issue when
addressing the introductory section of your paper.
Writing An Abstract
An abstract is an easy-to-read digest of original material that you review on a mailing
list, a Web site, a newspaper, a news magazine, a professional journal, a TV program
(e.g., Sixty Minutes) or a radio program (e.g., All Things Considered). The
goal is to write a concise, accurate presentation of the material that is fully
understandable without reference to the original source.
Abstract Format. The format of your abstract
consists of a catchy title, not necessarily the title of the information resource you are
abstracting, followed by your name, affiliation, and e-mail address. The initial
paragraphs include a summary of the item followed by implications for education, and
conclude with bibliographic information (in APA style).
To begin the initial section, ask yourself, "If I had only a few minutes to
describe this article to a colleague, what would I say?" What is the most important
idea or event that indicates change? Your response to these questions should constitute
the lead sentences of the abstract. Follow these sentences with development and
explanation. Use quotation marks to make it clear when you are making direct citations
from the text. Whenever possible, include statistical data. Limit the summary to no more
than one page of single-spaced, typewritten copy (and a half-page is better).
The implications section of the abstract is where you respond to the question,
"How will the information in this article affect education?" You might also
include a list of those emerging issues suggested by the article, a description of future
events you see occurring as a result of the trend(s) identified in the article, and/or an
identification of issue stakeholders if they are not listed in the article.
Speculation about implications is a part of the scanning and abstracting process. Here
you try to determine an item's potential for affecting other facets of the social
environment and/or education. Review the articles published in On the Horizon for examples.
Note: you can focus on just summarizing the article, or, if you wish, you can put your
abstract in the form of an On the Horizon article. In this case, your first
paragraph should should put the event or issue in a global or national context. For
example, if you are using an article on an emerging issue affecting Wake County Schools,
begin your paper with a statement that reflects the global or national context of the
issue and use the Wake Country Schools to illustrate the emerging issue.
Specific Criteria For Abstracting
- Does the item represent events, trends, developments, or ideas that you have never
- Does the item contradict previous assumptions or your own beliefs about what seems to be
- Can you link the item to other abstracts which you have previously written or seen?
- Do the implications of the item have explicit or implicit bearing on education?
Examples of Abstracts in Previous Classes
Note: Since your abstract will be posted to your Web page (see below) and linked to
your biographical sketch, thus becoming part of your professional credentials that you can
distribute to prospective employer, it should be well written. I will give you a critique
of your first draft without a grade. Use this critique to revise your abstract before
posting it to the Web.
Team members can communicate with each other between classes via e-mail. For section
communication, I have established a mailing list, edsp287. To subscribe to the list, send
the following message to firstname.lastname@example.org: subscribe
edsp287 <your first name> <your last name>. Do not type anything in the
subject line, and do not type a period after your name. (For further information, see Subscribing
to a List.) When your subscription is confirmed, you will receive a message welcoming
you to the list and containing instructions as to how to use the list. Note that this list
is unmoderated (i.e., any participant can send a message to all of the other
participants). We will use the the list to communicate between classes; please check your
e-mail each day for announcements vis-à-vis the class. Messages relevant to specific
individuals should be sent to their e-mail addresses, not to the class list. If you do not
have a computer with a modem, you may use the computers in Mercer-Reynolds Lab. Note that
you can send messages to the list at email@example.com.
Lab hours are Monday-Wednesday 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Thursday-Friday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM,
Sunday 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM. If you use an e-mail address from an Internet service provider,
remember to have your UNC e-mail forwarded to that address by following the directions on
the ISIS menu.
Effective written and oral communication skills are essential for educational leaders.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains useful
instructions about writing style, as does Strunk's Elements of Style. We will
use the APA guide
for in-text citation and for reference lists in scanning abstracts and in issue analysis
papers. To supplement this, there is an online guide explaining how to cite
Internet sources. Remember, the APA manual is a guide for preparing papers for publication
consideration. In this class, however, you act as publisher of your scanning abstract and
the issues analysis paper when you "publish" them on your Web site. Therefore,
such APA requirements of double spacing text, using headers, and underlining book titles
are not relevant. For further information on designing and working with a Web page, there
is a site at The Saint Louis SPJ
that you may find helpful.
For instructions on creating and accessing your folder on Horizon site, click on "Technical Instructions"
from the main course menu.
When you upload your issue analysis paper to a Web site, you are in effect a published
scholarpeople using Internet search engines seeking information related to your
papers' topics are likely to read your manuscripts (and perhaps cite them in their work).
On the one hand, this is to your advantage, as you will receive credit for sharing your
scholarship with other educators when citing your work on your vita (always helpful when
seeking employment). On the other hand, it is incumbent that your work be first-rate, both
in terms of the logic of your analyses and in terms of your communication of those
I and your classmates will assist you in this enterprise. I will critique the first
draft of your scanning abstract and the first draft of your team issue analysis paper so
that you can revise them before submitting them to your Web site. In addition, you will
receive (and give) a critique of the first draft of two issue analysis papers written by
other teams. These critiques will provide you feedback, guidance, and pointers that you
can use in revising your papers, thereby increasing the value of your work to other
Horizon Web Site. Each issue analysis paper will be linked to the Horizon
Web site for review and comment by class members. By posting your drafts to the Web, you
(and your classmates) will have access to them from home (if you have an Internet access
provider account). When the course is completed, if you so request, I will upload
your issues analysis papers to the Issues
Challenging Education section of Horizon Home Page. You can then use the URL to cite
your paper on your vita as published on the Web. And, of course, your name as author will
link to your biographical sketch; therefore, you may also cite the URL of your bio on your
business card. Moreover, if you wish, I will retain your folder with your resume on the
Horizon server. You may continue to update your resume as you progress professionally and
At the conclusion of the course, each team will present their issue analysis paper in a
dress rehearsal (for later presentation to the US Department of Education senior staff, if
so asked!). This presentation will use Microsoft PowerPoint and a computer projection
device (LCD panel or TV). Please review the paper presentation hints and tips
when preparing your presentation.
You may feel uncomfortable with both (a) needing to learn how to use productivity tools
while learning how to do environmental scanning and issue analyses and (b) with my role as
mentor, guide, and critic (as opposed to information provider). Treat this class as an
experiment. Observe your classmates and my behavior as we proceed through the semester. I
will periodically ask you for these observations as we go through the semester. You may
want to review a presentation
and analysis of my experience with the development of this course in previous classes.
Class members bring a rich diversity of background experiences, training, and interest
to each session. Part of leadership is being able to learn from others in a group setting
by questioning them and by putting forth one's own ideas, so that your ideas can be
questioned by others; the resulting process should result in better ideas. We call this
Purposeful learning primarily is a task-oriented process. The obvious reason for
pursuing it in a group format is to bring to bear a far greater variety of cognitive
resources and affective supports for pursuit of the task than would be available for any
one of the group members acting independently. Research indicates that small-group
discussion is more effective than virtually any other educational technique for the
acquisition of problem-solving skills and for fostering critical thinking.
In an effective group, the processes of discussion involve cooperation and sharing of
ideas, thereby improving individual judgement. In effect, pooling ideas in the group
allows individual members to correct deficiencies in evidence and reasoning better than
they could on their own.
However, the advantages of small-group work can only be realized if certain conditions
are met. First and foremost, effective discussion presupposes adequate preparation. The
individual must share an equal part of the group burden to ensure distribution of the
works and to benefit the most from the exercises.
Second, group members must decide to give the process a good-faith effort and avoid
playing destructive roles. If you believe that group discussion is an unconscionable waste
of your time, then it will become one. Keeping an open mind, cooperating with the group,
and trying to make the technique work will return many benefits.
Third, small-group techniques necessitate developing skills in communication. Not only
is clarity of expression important, but the art of listeningactually hearing what
the other person is sayingmust also be practiced. Here are some helpful guidelines
to assist you in this task:
- Challenge opinions you do not agree with by offering your opinion and then supporting it
with evidence from the course material. Specificity is important.
- Be willing to change your mind when someone shows an error in your opinion or use of the
- Ask for clarification of any point or term you do not understand. Clarification is vital
to your own learning and lack of it can cripple the group's effectiveness as well.
- Stick to the subject. Do not introduce matters that have no connection to the problem
being discussed. Staying on task is extremely important, for time is a precious resource.
- Listen carefully. Preoccupation with your own ideas is to be avoided; you should be able
to give a summary of what others are saying.
- If someone else makes more or less the same point you wish to make, don't repeat it.
- Don't continue to talk after you have made your point.
- Finally, remember that it is your responsibility to contribute to the solution of the
task at hand. Non-participation will detract from your own learning and will seriously
hamper the effectiveness of the group as a whole.