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Facilitating Send-a-Problem active learning activities in a classroom.
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
- No special requirements for this approach.
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Send-a-Problem learning activity within a classroom.
- Determine the number of problems you will need to have all groups working simultaneously.
- Decide how to present the problem. Consider attaching each issue to a file folder or envelope into which groups can then insert their solutions.
- Think carefully about time limits and the order in which students should pass the problem.
- Form groups of 2-3 students, describe the activity, give instructions, and answer questions.
- Distribute a different problem to each group. Ask each group to discuss the issue, generate possible solutions, choose the best solution, and record their response in the folder or envelope.
- Call time and instruct teams to sends the URL for their Google Doc to the next group. Each group should receive a new question.
- Upon receiving new problems, students again brainstorm responses and record results until time runs out. They pass the issue to a new group. Repeat the process as many times as it seems useful.
- The final group reviews the responses, synthesizes the information, and adds any additional information.
- The activity concludes as teams report on the responses contained in the folder they evaluated. As groups report out, add any points that groups missed, and reinforce correct processes and solutions.
- Review the outcomes of the activity.
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. 232-237.