Lecture at the Nosmo Methodology day March  9 2007 University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Europe

Visual Problem Appraisal ‘Kerala’s Coast’ - A simulation for learning on complex problems

Bert Enserink , Technische Universiteit Delft E-mail: B.Enserink@tudelft.nl & Loes Witteveen , Larenstein University of Professional Education


Visual Problem Appraisal (VPA) is a realistic open simulation, constructed as a consultancy mission, positioning participants in the role of a consultant travelling to a foreign destination to analyse a complex situation. VPA is a film-based simulation that aims to encourage and support (prospect) professionals to sharpen their analytical competencies by actively observing the explicit articulation of the various problem perceptions of the stakeholders encapsulated in filmed interviews. VPA was designed for training students in the international classroom in interpreting complex problems and is used in master courses Integrated Coastal Zone Management of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), and of the Van Hall Institute, Larenstein University and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands .

VPA Kerala’s Coast focuses on issues of coastal zone management in Kerala, South India, a tropical coastal area stressed by high population pressure and developmental activities. It is based on 23 interviews with stakeholders like policy makers, traditional fisherman, clam pickers, sand miners, trawler owners, researchers, environmentalist, and rice farmers.

Apart from classroom application VPA was tested as a tool for social learning in the actual problem situation. In co-operation with CUSAT authorities four two-day workshops with different publics were organised, ranging from CUSAT students in coastal zone management, lecturers involved in Social Security Schemes to local stakeholders of the Thycattussery Block Panchayat and professionals of the department of Fisheries. Participants indicated they now do better understand why people in the coastal zone act and work the way they do and changed their perspective on coastal zone problems, which we consider to be an indication of real social learning and the effectiveness of VPA.

In this paper we describe the design of the visual problem appraisal as a method for analysing and structuring complex problems. We will present the evaluation outcomes of the use of VPA “Kerala’s Coast” both in the classroom and in the field experiment in Kerala. 


Dr. Dorien  DeTombe (MSc.Ph.D.)

Chair International Research Society on Methodology of Societal Complexity

P.O. Box. 3286, 1001 AB Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe

Tel: +31 20 6927526

E-Mail: DeTombe@nosmo.nl ; http://www.geocities.com/doriendetombe




©Dorien J. DeTombe, All rights reserved, first announced February  2007