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Send-A-Problem (ALC)

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 to guide how to 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

  • None

Technical Documentation


Example 1

In the Advanced Pathophysiology and Patient Management course, students have a series of lectures, podcasts, and essays to guide them through assessing and treating patients with respiratory disease. The professor used Send-A-Problem to reinforce and test their understanding of care options. He asked each table to review a case with a patient's specific symptoms. Groups were given fifteen minutes to review the symptoms and recommend a course of treatment. They added their solution to their group's Google Slide. Next, each group reviewed two other groups' solutions, critiqued them, and reviewed their solution if their opinion had been changed (Modified from Barkley 234).

Example 2

In English Literature, students are asked to think about cultural and social conditions surrounding the development of the novel Pride and Prejudice. The professor used  Send-A-Problem to help them apply their knowledge to a specific condition found in the novel. He developed a question relating the text to the historical context of the nineteenth century. He displayed the question on the Google Slide. Groups were given 20 minutes to respond to the question. They are then asked to review other groups' responses, critique them, and review their original response. The class discussed possible question analyses (Modified from Barkley 234-235).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 232-237.

Keywordssolving problems, group, multiple solutions, problem-solving, review, critiqueDoc ID118478
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 14:58:39Updated2024-04-16 15:44:25
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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