Instructor Preparation Time Medium
Student Response Time Medium
Instructor Analysis Time Medium
Large Classroom Considerations Movable tables and chairs
Complexity of Activity Medium


Structured Problem-Solving gives students a process for solving a complex, content-based problem within a specific time limit. All students must agree to a solution and be able to explain the answer and strategy used to solve the problem. The activity will help identify where students need to develop and/or improve their problem-solving skills.


  • To break a problem-solving process into specific steps,
  • To have students identify, analyze, and solve problems in an organized manner,
  • To give students a structured format — preventing them from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem, or from engaging in irrelevant steps by providing manageable steps.
Create a problem that is complex enough to require students to use sophisticated problem-solving skills. Use research and current questions in the field as a resource.
Choose an identification and solving procedure that is appropriate to the type of problem selected.
Solve the problem yourself using the identified problem-solving procedure to uncover any difficulties or errors.
Create a handout that includes both the problem and the problem-solving steps.
Organize students into teams and assign them a complex problem to solve.
Ask students to use the specific steps you have identified as a problem-solving technique: (a) identify the problem; (b) generate possible solutions; (c) evaluate and test the various solutions; (d) decide on a mutually acceptable solution; (e) implement plan, and (f) evaluate the results.
Teams report the steps they took and the solution they developed. 
Review reports.
Provide feedback/grades to group participants.

Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 244-248.