Module 7: Taking a Stand: Decision-Making through the Force-Choice Format

Discussion Question #1: After examining the rank-order and forced-choice approaches toward content-centered learning, which are most practical and beneficial?

Discussion Question #2: If you were placed in the position to determine the outcome of Heinrich Lummer, what would you do? Why?


In this module, we will discuss the Force-Choice format of content-centered lessons. In addition to examining each approach’s steps, components, and rationales, examples will be given.

Decision-Making: Force-Choice

Forced choice allows students to examine and focus on situations in which students must choose from among some almost equally attractive (or realistic) alternatives. Students must accept one option in this model and automatically exclude the unselected alternatives. Students with five or more opportunities for the dilemma or situation should be selected. 

The forced-choice approach consists of five major components (steps):

  1. A case derived from a historical event, issue, or current event that implies a forced situation is relevant. Like rank order, the key to each of Stahl’s approaches is to link the lesson to content relating to material learned in class and the textbook.


  1. A listing of a limited number of options (a minimum of five) is directly relevant and problematic to the situation from which students must select one and only one option.



  1. Directions tell students that the others can no longer be used upon selecting one option. 


  1. A sheet where students are to select their choice and provide justification for how he/she made their selection. The choice of the best goal is the ultimate goal. However, we ask students to decide on the three best or feasible options to reach this point. Then, after a discussion of rocks, papers, and scissors, the group narrowed the three down to one choice.



  1. A set of questions as discussion starters. These questions are used to encourage students they had processed and help students comprehend and interpret the situation they had just examined before they were forced to choose.


The following lesson is an example of a Forced-Choice decision-making experience. You will notice that all the required components/steps are included in the case below. To get a sense of this strategy and format, assume the role of the student.



Heinrich Lummer: East German Border Guard


The Situation: Heinrich Lummer was nineteen when he was told to enter the East German army. Raised in East Berlin, Heinrich privately hated the socialist government and the “wall of oppression” between East and West Berlin. However, fearing the government’s harsh treatment of those who questioned the government and possible secret police within his unit, he was reluctant to express his disgust. Assigned to the northern sector of the Berlin Wall, Heinrich regularly witnessed civilian brutality at the hands of East German border guards. One summer night, while on patrol, Heinrich tossed a note in an empty bottle over the wall into the West Berlin sector. Heinrich anonymously described his hatred for the wall, the communist government, and the Soviet Union’s presence in East Germany in the letter. Three days later, a West German news radio station read Heinrich’s anonymous letter to their Western audience to publicize the oppression of the East German people. Three weeks after the radio broadcast, while working in his border guard unit’s barracks, Heinrich and ten others were arrested by three secret police. At his arrest, an East German spy working within the West Berlin radio station copied the note and, through military records, had traced the letter to his unit. Heinrich and ten fellow border guards were charged with espionage and transported to the hated Brandenburg prison. 


Directions: As a high-ranking member of the East German secret police, you must individually select one of the following actions. Please consider the nature of the crime against the East German people and prevent future similar situations. All other activities will not be considered.


Option A: Deprive Heinrich of food and water for an extended period until he confesses to crimes against the socialist state. Make him serve 10 – 15 years of hard labor.


Option B: Arrest Heinrich’s family and charge them with “failure to report crimes against the state.” Make an example of Heinrich’s mother with a one-year sentence of hard labor.


Option C: Reward the spy working at the West German news radio station with promotion and increase incentives to expose border guards he suspects of anti-government activities.


Option D: Isolate Heinrich’s officer in charge of his unit until he confesses. Once a confession is made – execute him for treason against the people and not adequately controlling his unit. Each evening, rotate guards on patrol to promote distrust and fear of conducting anti-government activities.


Option E: Reassign all members of Heinrich’s unit to remote locations throughout East Germany.


Option F: Force confessions from several of Heinrich’s units. Each confession will be followed by two years of hard labor.


Option G: Increase electronic surveillance on all guards patrolling the Berlin Wall.


Option H: Secretly assign special agents to each border guard unit. All suspicious activity will be reported, and suspected guards will be reassigned or jailed.


Form into small groups of two or three students. You must agree on one of the above options offered in a group. As a group, you should seek some basis for agreement. The group must attempt to reach a single conclusion to protect East Germany.

Additional directions after students have investigated potential solutions. If you wish not to have cooperative learning, you can only change it.

The three possible actions taken by the Stasi were narrowed down to:

  1.                                                            I mainly asked students to pick the best three.

Of the three decisions listed above, the best is:


Our rationale for this decision is:

                                                            Justifying the overall pick and why


Discussion Starters

  1. Is it correct for a government to spy on its citizens? Try to give an example of when it is appropriate and when it is not necessary.
  2. Suppose you were in charge of the West Berlin radio station. Would you have read the letter knowing there was a possibility of a Stasi crackdown?
  3. Do you believe Heinrich’s open questioning of his government’s political policies and actions is espionage?

How would you respond to this situation?





Readings and Guiding Questions:

Please read or listen to the following material in the order provided. In addition, to help one better reflect on each reading, questions may accompany each article/book chapter or webcast. These questions are to help one better understand the material. They are not required to be submitted for review unless marked otherwise. 

Chapter 5: Decision-Making Episodes Requiring the Forced-Choice Strategy from Robert Stahl’s book gives you an added dimension to the module’s notes.


Online Web Discussion –  Read each of the questions below.  After doing so, select all questions to focus your discussion.  Please make one thoughtful, original posting (a direct response to your chosen question) and at least one thoughtful response to a classmate’s posting. 

The original student response is due by Thursday, 29 February, at 11:59 p.m.

Response to a peer(s) is due by Monday, 4 March, at 7:00 a.m. 

Discussion Question #1: After examining the rank-order and forced-choice approaches toward content-centered learning, which are most practical and beneficial?

Discussion Question #2: If you were placed in the position to determine the outcome of Heinrich Lummer, what would you do? Why?

Online / Kialo Activity: Giving Them a Voice = 5 Points This online debate centers around the merits of the force-choice lesson titled “Giving Them a Voice”.  Once the module notes are read, and all examples are explored,  please go to the link below and respond to the statement posted. You are graded on the following: 1) two original claims – statements, comments, or suggestions originated by you (2 points); and 2) you must respond to your peers’ claims, statements, comments, or suggestions.  You must make three contributions (3 points).  All claims and responses must be completed by 7:00 a.m. on 4 March.




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