Elizabeth Coyle

Elizabeth Coyle

Elizabeth is the Program Director for Future Problem Solving Program International. Previously, she taught middle school for nine years and studied archaeology before entering the classroom.

Location Massachusetts


  • Great use of research, Maria!

  • Nice job outlining your plan and explaining its benefits!

  • You really thought this through! You put all the reasons why it would work, AND why people would be likely to buy into it (easy to implement, cost-effective, etc.). Nice Action Plan!

  • Thank you for taking part, Cheryl! Your feedback to other participants was very valuable.

  • Thank you so much for joining our course! I will check out The Earthshot Prize- it looks fascinating!

  • @MaríaJoséSalmerón This is a great evaluation of some of the Solutions! That's what the Criteria are meant for, so you could say something like, "Which solution will be the most cost effective for the communities in Africa?" so that you can evaluate Solutions from that perspective.

  • You have some great ideas here, but you don't need to use the KVP and Purpose in every Criterion. Ideally, you would use the KVP in one and the Purpose in another, then try to identify Criteria that would help you pick the best Solution. So you could have:

    1. Which solution will best stop New World residents from repeating history regarding desertification?...

  • True, though we see people do this every day. Ideally, the Criteria would be phrased in such a way that the best Solution would be chosen, not the most popular.

  • @MargaretJohnson I don't disagree, but think of it as tackling one thing at a time. To use a very broad example, we wouldn't want to say "let's end poverty"; rather, we could say something like, "how might we increase the availability of steady employment" or something like that. This gets at one issue that could affect the topic as a whole without being so...

  • @MaríaJoséSalmerón true, so now we take it a step further. Is there a way to increase the rate that vegetation is planted/regrows?

  • Hi Maria! You have the idea down, but you're getting a little ahead of yourself. The criteria are meant to focus the Solutions that you generated, so using what you've said here, you could say, "Which solution will most mitigate desertification?" Does that make sense?

  • Nice use of research! Can you apply it to the Future Scene?

  • This is very true. Using the given Future Scene, can you create Solutions to solve a problem within it?

  • This is great collaboration. Nice job using research to support your Solution ideas!

  • These are good questions. Think about the given Future Scene; you're trying to solve problems that humans returning to the surface may face. All great ideas start as hypotheticals, so our Solutions here can be hypothetical as well!

  • Can you take what you've learned in the research and apply it to the Future Scene? State Who will do What and How/Why they're going to do it. Your goal is to solve your UP; you have great research here that you can absolutely apply to the Scene!

  • Yes! This is more information in order to assist with Solution creation.

  • @MaríaJoséSalmerón, how would you do those things? Step 3 involves creating specific Solutions to solve the Underlying Problem that you have selected.

    @RichardDennehy you're really evaluating your Solution ideas here! That's actually the next step, so don't get too far ahead- our goal for now is to generate many and varied Solution ideas.

    This is a great...

  • Your Solutions are very flexible and provide a variety of ideas!

  • Can you give more details about these ideas?
    1. What small efforts will countries take to rehabilitate their food production?
    2. What happens to these countries between aid being taken and their ability to be self-sustaining?
    3. Can you give more details about how a plan like this would work?

  • Nice collaboration! Adding the Purpose drives the point of your UP home and gives you an opportunity to create many varied Solutions.

  • Maintaining management of resources is an important point based in the Scene as well as the research. Nice job!

  • Neda, let's take this idea a step further- once they've realized what to do, how do you help these people do it?

  • What confused you? I'm happy to give more details!

  • That depends; Challenges are meant to give a picture of all of the issues, so that one can be selected for focus. While it would be wonderful to fix all of the issues surrounding desertification in this scene, the reality of any problem is that we have to focus on specific parts at a time. Identifying Challenges is the generating portion; Selecting the...

  • Remember that you want to focus in- you just need the first sentence! The second one is bordering on a Solution, that's our next step, so don't get too far ahead of yourself!

  • Hello, Margaret! I completely understand what you're saying, and for students working with the process in the classroom, on teams, etc., they go through a lot of scaffolding before they begin trying to create a UP. I completely understand what you're saying; we absolutely don't want to stifle students! The goal with the Underlying Problem is to allow students...

  • You have a good, positive direction for this UP. Nice job! I look forward to seeing the Solutions that you create.

  • You have a lot of ideas here, all based in great research! Is there one that applies to the given Future Scene? If so, can you frame it as a question that would improve the Scene at hand?

  • @MargaretJohnson These are all important issues. Is there one that applies to the Future Scene that you can focus on to create an Underlying Problem?

  • @MaríaJoséSalmerón Your thought process is very good! We are trying to focus on the given Future Scene though. Can you take the ideas you've written here and apply them to the Scene at hand?

  • This is such a great idea- we are sometimes bad at learning from our ancestors' mistakes even today! Can you take that section a step further, and frame it in a positive direction? Rather than stopping the residents from doing something, what is something they can do that will improve their situation?

  • I like that you have such a positive UP that focuses on allowing ecosystems to thrive!

  • These are great ideas! Can you frame it as a question that will give you options for creating Solutions? A good place to start is, "How might we." Then add what you want to accomplish. Do you want to increase healthy eating? Improve awareness of how our food consumption impacts the Earth?

    One thing to keep in mind is that you want to be able to generate...

  • Nice UP! Having a positively-directed KVP is a good place to start writing Solutions.

  • These are all very good questions! Is there one you can focus on to solve in the next step?

  • Wow! This UP gives you a lot of options for Solutions, and puts your ideas in a positive direction.

  • You have a great direction here! Could you be more specific than, "make these people realize what to do"? Is there a way to make it so that the people don't just realize what they have to do, but actually take action to do it?

  • This UP gives you a lot of options for Solutions and puts your ideas in a positive direction. Nice job!

  • We had a long drought here in MA a few years ago; as a state that normally gets a lot of rain/snow, people didn't know how to handle it at all. We didn't have the dust either, but I can't imagine how brutal that must have been.

  • Good question! I actually looked this up and disturbing the topsoil does make it more likely to be blown away, especially if the crops haven't fully seeded. Even then, a field of crops isn't as covered as a regular field or forest, so the topsoil is less protected.

  • Nice summary of the facts! Number 8 sticks out a bit- why would plowing fields and butchering livestock contribute more to the Dust Bowl?

  • An interesting thought- should we be looking at "progress" differently than we do now?

  • This kind of thing is something I think about often- if our ancestors had known what we know now about things like agroforestry or renewable energy, how would our world look different?

  • Elizabeth Coyle replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    @robinbanks Do you know why watermelons in particular have been chosen? Is there something about them that makes them more suitable for desert-adjacent agriculture?

  • Here are a couple of resources that answer your questions:

    Do you think that the makeup of the soil makes a difference in regards to desertification?

  • Lyn, I hope you and yours are all safe from the devastating fires! I know that droughts have been a huge contributor, and anthropogenic climate change as a whole. Do you think the recent fires will increase the rate of desertification in Australia?

  • This is an interesting point. Why do you think the author of the article focused so much on the effects on humans? Loss of bio-diversity affects humans (as well as the creatures, of course), so there must be a reason for the specific focus of the article. What are your thoughts?

  • Nice job backing up your ideas with research! Finding and addressing the individual causes of desertification in each area will likely be key; what works for the edges of the Sahara Desert may not work for expanding desertification of the Gobi Desert.

    Can you explain a little more about why you feel starting with smaller parts is best? So often people try...

  • This is a great question. Does anyone have thoughts on this?

  • You're so right, Eric!

  • Elizabeth Coyle replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    I never thought of using rain water in the desert! Are others in your community doing the same thing?

  • Hi Reagan! I'm not sure if you're an FPS student right now, but we did not set this up in the exact way a booklet would be. Keep going and it will all make sense:)

  • We at FPSPI do try to be challenging and to encourage the so-important critical and creative thinking skills. Thank you so much for taking the course!

  • Welcome, Bashir! We're excited to have you in the course!

  • Cheryl, thank you so much for being involved with this course and all you do for FPS!

  • Welcome, Ceyda! We're excited to have you in the course. Thank you for being here and being a part of FPS!

  • Welcome, Jessica! Thanks for being a part of FPS! We look forward to working with you and your team!

  • Welcome, Shelagh! We believe our problem-solving approach is incredibly valuable and we're excited to share it with you!

  • Welcome, Sebastian! Where are you from?

  • Welcome, Adam! We are happy to have you on board!

  • Welcome, Bree!

  • Welcome, Jacqueline!

  • Elizabeth Coyle replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Welcome, Vanessa, and thank you for being a part of FPS for so long!

  • Welcome, Kendra! We are excited to have you (and maybe your class!) on board!

  • Welcome, Peyton! We're excited to have you learning with us!

  • Welcome, thank you so much for taking part in the course!

  • @KimberleeSpaetig-Peterson the age suggestion is just that- a suggestion. You are very welcome in the course, and we encourage anyone who is interested to complete the course.

    I am excited to see that so many people are engaging with the course already!