Purpose: To challenge students to think critically about key issues and open-ended questions in each discipline. This three-part process encourages students to question assumptions and explore alternative solutions.
How to Conduct: The instructor brings to class file folders or envelopes with a single problem posted on each one. She announces the activity and its time limits. She distributes the folders, one per team. In large classes several teams can work simultaneously on the same problems with the caveat that they cannot be seated close together. The activity proceeds in a highly structured manner:
Those familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) will recognize that this activity brings students to the highest levels of critical thinking because the final step requires sophisticated evaluation and synthesis. Group reports can provide useful closure.
Discipline-Specific Applications: Instructors will find that Send-a-Problem activities are limited only by their imagination. Virtually all disciplines lend themselves to problem-solving activities where “many heads are better than one.” For example:
The Send-a-Problem concept does not need to be limited to issues. In place of the folders, geologists can pass around rocks needing identification; nursing instructors can have teams complete a patient chart; and ESL teachers can have teams caption various cartoons using the target language.
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Teaching and Learning Center
University of Texas at San Antonio
Weekly Teaching Notes: 2014-2015 Index
Include High-Impact Teaching Practices to Make Learning Stick
Use Elements of Cognitive Constructivism to Design Effective Learning Activities
Develop Expertise in Students by Creating Cognitive Apprenticeships
Improving Student Learning with (Almost) No Grading