Structured Problem-Solving (classroom)

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Facilitating Structured Problem-Solving active learning activities in a classroom

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeMedium
Student Activity TimeMedium
Instructor Response TimeMedium
Complexity of ActivityMedium


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

Technical Documentation


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 244-248.

See Also:

Keywords:structured problem-solving, problem-solving, active learning, classroom   Doc ID:104146
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-20 09:12 CSTUpdated:2021-08-20 13:24 CST
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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