Issue Mapping Through Observations


  • To create an Issue Map from observations
  • To analyze an Issue Map from observations
  • To name root causes of issues


  • “Going Deeper” handouts (1 per participant)
  • Observation sheets from school day and from single location (done in “Observation Practice” lesson in Investigate: Observations)
  • Large school map
  • Post-its

Prepare Before

Post your large school map on the wall.

Warm Up

Take a look at the lists from your observations.  Select your top three issue observations to share with the group.   Why are these your top three?  Because they are deeply felt by you?  Widely felt by many?  Other reasons?


Hand everyone post-its. We will start from the single location mapping.  Each person should share one issue from their location — if you had the same location at many times, have those people share in sequence.   As they say their issue, they should write their issue on a post-it with their initials and place it on the school map.  Continue through the locations until everyone has gone once.   With the rest of their post-its, they should write the next three issues they saw at that location and post them.


Facilitate a discussion using these reflection questions:

  • What did you learn from other people’s observations?
  • What, if anything, do you notice about our school community at this point?
  • Have you observed similar issues at these locations?


We are beginning to look at the issues of our school.   We will be using this along with our Asset Map to guide us in determining and focusing our issue and our actions.


PART 1:  Mapping Issues

Take out your 24 hour issue observations from the previous lesson.  We are going to map the rest of the issues at the school.   Keep track of the issues and how many times people had them.

Everyone should still have a small stack of post-its for mapping.  Start with the issues that have already been mapped.  One by one, say the issue and ask if anyone else observed that issue in another location.   If they did, they should write the issue name and their initials, and then place it on the map.   If they observed that in the same location, they can add their initials to the post-it instead of making an additional one.

Once you have gone through all the existing issue on the map, add any additional words and their locations on the map.   At this point, the map will probably be covered with post-its.

What do you notice?   What issues did we mention the most?  Are there locations within our school that have “issues clusters”?  Are there places within our school that have few or no issues?   Are there any issues that exist but are not on here?  If yes, add those to the list (but not the map).

PART 2:  Going Deeper

Pick three of the issues to go deeper with.  They should either be issues that were included by many people (widely felt) or issues that had a lot of resonance for some people (deeply felt).

Everyone should get into pairs or trios.  Assign one of the three issue words to each group—it is fine to have more than group on a word. They are going to complete the “Going Deeper” handout to see if we can get to root causes of these issues.

Share back answers.  Probe groups with “Why does this happen?” until you feel they are at root causes.   Chart the root causes so the class can return to this.