Structured Problem-Solving (classroom)
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Facilitating Structured Problem-Solving active learning activities in a classroom
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Medium|
|Student Activity Time||Medium|
|Instructor Response Time||Medium|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Structured Problem-Solving gives students a process for solving a complex, content-based problem within a specific time limit. All students must agree to a solution and be able to explain the answer and strategy used to solve the problem. The activity will help identify where students need to develop and/or improve their problem-solving skills.|
Use it when you want...
- To break a problem-solving process into specific steps,
- To have students identify, analyze, and solve problems in an organized manner,
- To give students a structured format — preventing them from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem, or from engaging in irrelevant steps by providing manageable steps.
What students will need
- No special requirements for this approach.
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Structured Problem-Solving learning activity within a classroom.
- Create a problem that is complex enough to require students to use sophisticated problem-solving skills. Use research and current questions in the field as a resource.
- Choose an identification and solving procedure that is appropriate to the type of problem selected.
- Solve the problem yourself using the identified problem-solving procedure to uncover any difficulties or errors.
- Create a handout that includes both the problem and the problem-solving steps.
- Organize students into teams and assign them a complex problem to solve.
- Ask students to use the specific steps you have identified as a problem-solving technique: (a) identify the problem; (b) generate possible solutions; (c) evaluate and test the various solutions; (d) decide on a mutually acceptable solution; (e) implement plan, and (f) evaluate the results.
- Teams report the steps they took and the solution they developed.
- Review reports.
- Provide feedback/grades to group participants.
- Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
- The wearing of masks by students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak. All classrooms that are large enough to normally require a microphone already have a microphone system with a communal clip-on pickup element. Further information about the availability of additional clip-on or headset microphone elements will be coming soon. View the instructions and short videos below to assist with the use of the microphones and the portable systems:
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 244-248.