DoingCL - Structured Problem Solving





Structured Problem Solving

Student groups are given a problem to solve within a specified time limit. A mini-lecture preceding the group problem solving may be appropriate depending on the specific activity. Each student is identified by counting off (e.g., from 1 to 4). The group is instructed to solve the problem such that all members agree on a solution and can explain the answer and strategy used to solve the problem. After the specified time, the instructor announces the number (e.g., "2") of the student to present the group's solution to the other groups. Alternatively, students can explain their results to only one other group. This saves time and permits more students to present their solutions (Johnson, et al., 1991; Millis and Cottell, 1998; Slavin, 1995).

Besides the collaborative exchange, students become familiar with problem solving strategies, improve their communication skills, and reinforce their interdependence with other group members. Also, if this problem solving task is given right after a mini-lecture, the students are able to work with the concepts immediately.

Click here to see an example of structured problem solving by Karl A. Smith.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. A. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Millis, B. J., and Cottell, P. G., Jr. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education. The Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ.

Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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