UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards a creative problem-oriented approach to urban studies Drexel, Julia A. L.


The complexity, pervasiveness and urgency of the social and biophysical problems now confronting mankind present planners and decision makers at all levels of human organization with monumental challenges. Undoubtedly some of the most challenging problems are those associated with the process of urbanization and the city itself. Indeed, it could be argued that many of our social and biophysical problems are related to mankind's persistent congregation in relatively small geographical areas. This tends to concentrate and intensify problems considerably, causing such basic and simple activities as the provision of one's own food to become an extremely complex problem, involving vast and interdependent networks of factors such as transportation, economics, waste disposal, etc. These are the problems that currently perplex urban decision-makers. In order to deal effectively with our mounting urban problems, individuals must be both knowledgeable about the city and sensitive to its attributes and its problems. But even more important, they must be capable of addressing these problems in an open-minded, intelligent and dynamic manner. They must not be bound by the worn out prescriptions and piecemeal approaches that have characterized past environmental problem solving. It is this last ability, which I shall refer to as ‘creative problem solving', that is most often neglected at all levels of education. And it is this ability which concerns me here. I believe that properly designed and implemented programs of urban-oriented problem solving are of tremendous importance in the education of professionals and the citizenry at large, to prepare them for their respective roles as urban decision-makers. While the actual design of such programs would vary depending of the age level and career goals of those for whom they are intended, I believe that the basic concepts involved in an understanding of the city and the educational approach whereby these may be imparted, would be much the same regardless of the context. I have therefore attempted to develop in this thesis, a conceptual framework for programs of urban-oriented problem solving. From the volumes of work on problem solving, creativity and education, I have crystallized an educational approach to creative problem solving which is based on the phases of the creative problem solving process itself. Each phase is discussed with reference to the major abilities required by the individual during that phase, and the educational methods whereby those abilities might best be developed. The applications of these methods to urban problem solving are illustrated by numerous suggestions for activities and exercises which involve specific urban concepts, such as transportation, communication and urban growth. I have generally addressed myself, in these suggestions, to a secondary school level of education. However, it should not be difficult for an experienced teacher to adapt the ideas presented to either lower of higher levels of education. It is hoped that these ideas will generate increased ideation and activity at all levels of education, and in particular at the university level, where tomorrow's urban decision makers are now enrolled in schools of Planning, Architecture, and Environmental Design.

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