Every profession has its own language and acronyms. We all have ways to abbreviate our conversations and speed up our work. Examples?

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • ROI – Return on Investment
  • G&C – Guidance and Control
  • CTO – Chief Technology Officer
  • RCS – Retro Control System

Last Tuesday, I ran across a business acronym that I hadn’t heard before – SWOT. SWOT is a strategy used by businesses to help them make effective decisions about possible projects and products.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengthsinternal characteristics of a business that give it an advantage over others
  • Weaknessesinternal characteristics that place a business at a disadvantage relative to others
  • Opportunitiesexternal chances to make greater sales or profits
  • Threatsexternal elements in the environment that could cause problems

A few teachers and I spent some time on Tuesday talking about how this process could be used by history teachers to help kids make sense of content. It seems like a pretty easy way to have kids compare and contrast all sorts of stuff.

The example we started off with was the United States in March 1861. We’ve always worked to get kids to see to have a sense of what was happening at that time and what might happen in the next couple of years following secession by the southern states.

So . . . we put some teachers in the position of Chief Operating Officer (president) of both the United States and the Confederate States and asked them do a SWOT analysis.

They sat down with their staff (cabinet) and created a report that listed their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

United States:

  • Strengths – more railroads, more men, more factories, strong navy
  • Weaknesses – lack of strong support, poor military leadership
  • Opportunities – protect the Constitution,
  • Threats – England becoming a Confederate ally, losing land

Confederate States:

  • Strengths – strong military leadership, lots of support from citizens
  • Weaknesses – few factories, no gunpowder, lack of manpower
  • Opportunities – possible foreign financial and military  support, political independence
  • Threats – lack of moral high ground

We then asked that they develop a proposal outlining future steps based on their SWOT analysis. What should the US do? How should they respond to the events taking place in 1860 and 1861?

The teachers then brainstormed other places where a SWOT might be useful:

  • Specific battles
  • Political campaigns
  • Manifest Destiny
  • The New Deal
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Stamp Act

I’m sure you can come up with your own ideas. Be sure to have fun!

(H/T to Dr. Bruce M.)

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