Applying Plus, Minus, Interesting

I like this strategy. I like it because it goes beyond the pros/cons list that I tend to make very quickly in my head while making a decision.  This way of thinking adds complexity to any choice by creating an “interesting” column where one can add related information or questions that one might otherwise leave out of a pros/cons diagram.

When thinking more about PMI I came to realize that I was teaching a variation of this strategy this past year.  I was a long-term health and personal fitness substitute at a local public school for about a month this past spring.  One of the things we talked about were decision-making strategies that students can use in making difficult choices.  This is important for teenagers who will be faced with a lot of difficult choices in their four years in high school, and beyond.  I was teaching the predetermined curriculum, so I didn’t think much of it. We kind of breezed through talking about how to use these strategies to think through a possible decision.  However, the students were not given practice in these strategies.  They were not given any examples and asked to write down how they would go about thinking through a particular issue or decision.  In hindsight, I would have added a practical component to this lesson where students would be given practice in both writing and thinking in this way.  I’ve heard that students who are given practice scenarios for tough decisions are better able to make good choices in the future when faced with difficult situations (which often include peer pressure).

Anyway, that was just a thought I had about how I could have used this strategy in the past.  In the future, I can see a lot of ways that students can use PMI in the social studies classroom.  For one, I could see it used as a way to introduce or review content information, or as a way to assess a student’s understanding of a particular historical figure, event, or era.  For instance, I could ask students to make a PMI chart to show what they know about Truman’s decision-making process in dropping the atomic bomb in WWII.  They could pretend they were Truman and do an APC to think through all possible solutions, and then they could use a PMI as a way to show what they know about the pros, cons, and questions that Truman may have posed in considering the atomic bomb as a solution.  This not only allows students to show what they know, but it enables them to see the complexity of the situation because it was not a black and white decision, there were many complicating factors in WWII and beyond.

As for my own PMI, I think most of my day-to-day decisions should first start with a sort of brainstorm, or an APC (alternatives, possibilities, choices) and then move into a PMI to really think about a possible solution from a couple of angles.  For instance, I could do this about what I will make for dinner…

APC: pizza, pasta, chicken salad, burgers, grilled chicken and veggies, chicken parmesan, couscous and sauteed veggies, etc.

Then I would use my PMI on at least one of the options:


Plus: delicious, can use lots of veggies from the fridge, could make some for leftovers, vegetarians coming over can have veggie pizza, meat eaters can have sausage pizza, it uses up the open sauce, not to difficult to cook

Minus: not as healthy as some other options, have to make dough ahead of time, I may eat the leftovers later tonight, not all pizzas can cook at once, have to clean up pans with crusted on cheese

Interesting: Could I use the veggies in a more healthful way? What types of pizza might be more healthful? When will I make the dough? Is pizza that bad for you?


That was just a quick version, it took about a minute.  It definitely spurred me to think of how else I could “use up” the raw vegetables I have sitting in my fridge.  I feel like I could use this strategy in my head for most things, but use it on paper for more difficult decisions.  Furthermore, I think I could use it in class as a way for social studies students to conceptualize the material and its complexity, and to practice positive thinking strategies.



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