Instructional Strategy : Send-A-Problem

As an educator, one of my goals is to help develop learners ability to solve problems efficiently and effectively. Send-A-Problem is a helpful way for learners to teach and learn from each other, and become engaged in their learning to develop problem-solving skills.

How It Works
The instructor presents groups of students with a problem (can be written on the outside of an envelope or file folder).
Students use collaborative problem-solving and creative thinking skills to develop answers to the problem, writing them on a piece of paper and placing them into the folder.
When the instructor calls ‘time’, the folder is passed to the next group, where they repeat the process.
When each group has had a turn developing answers for the problem, the final group takes the collection of answers, analyzes and evaluates them, and develops the best possible answer. This is then presented to the class.

Strategies for Success with Send-A-Problem
Instructors should determine how much time will be needed for groups to create solutions to the problem. Problems should be roughly equal in complexity so that they take approximately the same amount of time to solve.
The instructor needs to provide clear directions, moderate the discussions, and track the time.
Send-A-Problem is best used for problems that do not have just one correct answer. Ideally, the activity should be completed within a single class session.
Learners should be familiar with the theory that might help them to solve the problem. They must be active participants in the group discussions and not be afraid to use some creative thinking.

“It is evident that creative thinking skills, openness to change, flexibility, and the ability to cope with challenging tasks are essential for integration in today’s society and workplace, whereas specific skills and knowledge are rapidly becoming obsolete and new fields are emerging every few years” (Barak, 2009).

Find out more by watching my video about Send-A-Problem!

Barak, M. (2009). Idea focusing versus idea generating: A course for teachers on inventive problem solving. Innovations in Education and Teaching International (46)4, 345-356.
Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagements techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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Filed under PIDP 3250

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