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Using Send-A-Problem activity to facilitate problem-solving skills in Active Learning Classrooms
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Medium|
|Student Activity Time||Medium|
|Instructor Response Time||Low|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Send-A-Problem has each group receive a problem, try to solve it, and then pass the problem and solution to a nearby group. The next group works to solve the problem without looking at the previous group’s answer. After several passes, groups analyze, evaluate, and synthesize responses and report the best solution to the class.|
Use it when you want...
- To provide opportunities for students to solve problems and evaluate solutions,
- To have students practice and learn from each other about the thinking skills required for successful problem-solving,
- To help students compare and discriminate between multiple solutions, or
- To get students to explain/defend their decisions.
What students will need
- Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Send-a-Problem learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.
- Determine a problem that could have multiple solutions or that represents a topic with which students have struggled in the past. Identify the solution you think is the optimal solution. Be prepared to explain the rationale for that decision.
- Create a Breakout Group Activities Using Google Slides document. The first slide will have the problem students should solve. Create a blank slide for each table to enter their solution.
- Determine how much time you will give groups to solve and review other solutions.
- Describe the activity, give instructions, and answer questions.
- Display the Google Slide and share the URL with students.
- Ask each group to discuss the issue, generate possible solutions, choose the best solution, and have the group assign a member to record their response on their group's slide.
- Call time and instruct teams to review the solutions from two other groups in the Google Slide. After reviewing them, groups are free to change their solution if they find a better solution.
- Call time. Create a list of solutions identified by the groups. Have groups critique the different solutions and come to some consensus on their preferred solution.
- Share the solution you identified as the optimal solution. If different, ask students to reflect on why that solution is better or worse than those they identified.
- Review the solutions in the shared Google Slides document.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
In the course Advanced Pathophysiology and Patient Management, students have a series of lectures, podcasts, and essays to guide them through the process of assessing and treating patients with respiratory disease. The professor decides to use Send-A-Problem to reinforce and test their understanding of care options. He asks each table to review a case with a patient's specific symptoms. Groups have fifteen minutes to review the symptoms and recommend a course of treatment. They add their solution to their group's Google Slide. Next, each group reviews two other groups' solutions, critiques them, and reviews their solution if their opinion has been changed (Modified from Barkley 234).
In English Literature, students are asked to think about cultural and social conditions surrounding the development of the novel Pride and Prejudice. The professor decides to use Send-A-Problem to help them apply their knowledge to a specific condition found in the novel. He develops a question relating the text to the historical context of the nineteenth century. He displays the question on the Google Slide. Groups get 20 minutes to respond to the question. They are then asked to review other groups' response, critique it, and then review their original response. The class comes together and discusses possible analyses of the question (Modified from Barkley 234-235).
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 232-237.