Thursday, February 23, 2017

Moving into the Realm of Real World Problem Solving

Our introduction to the real world problem solving process came via a lesson on the Shrinking of the Aral Sea (handout and image resource).  This resource is a bit dated, but I appreciated its simplicity so I used it as a model design this activity. The first half of the activity was conducted whole group broken into 3- 10 minute chunks that include small group dialogue, whole group sharing, and class decision making.  

The second half of the activity was comprised of students working in small groups or pairs to develop 2 solutions and 2 consequences for each solution, calculating a budget, selecting the solution with the consequences they were willing to accept, posting their solution on an Its Learning discussion board, and commenting on at least 2 other posts.  Students were also invited to respond to comments made or challenges to their solutions. Lastly, the students were provided with sentence stems to aid them in formulating their discussion board comments and questions.

  • The process was messy, loud, and productive.
  • The process produced heated, competitive, and meaningful exchanges during the class decision making process.

  • As the facilitator, the process unveiled lurking habits and perceptions held by students that are a barriers to authentic collaboration. This is something that I am still reflecting on and searching for strategies to counteract. Time is not on my side.
  • I learned that I need to provide instruction on how to communicate in an academic or professional space.  I am going to employ Accountability Talk resources to build a mini lesson to address this issue.
  • Everyone’s voice and ideas were shared and viewed in a seamless and self paced manner thanks to the discussion board tool. Some images from the discussion boards can be viewed via this link.
  • Student to student interaction was seamlessly increased 10 fold (or, just a lot) regardless of ability or language acquisition levels.
  • The standard for quality and sense of confidence in questioning and challenging was set by the students. Luckily, the hyper contentious and motivated got to the discussion board posting finish line first;-)

Next step...
  • Definitely provide 2-3 more opportunities to engage in the real world problem solving process.
  • Mini lesson appropriate and productive ways to have honest, challenging, and meaningful dialogue.
  • Address observations regarding unveiled habits and perceptions of our purpose in the "Areas We Need to Improve" portion of the 4th 6 Weeks Recap.
  • Incorporate the creation of a product or content as part of the assessment.
  • Incorporate reflection on the process.


  1. Lurking habits! Yes, kids do tend to behave just as we do as adults. Pretending to collaborate. I wish I had ideas for you - then I could transform trainings. We will have to keep each other updated as we research.

  2. Your reflection about needing to provide instruction in an academic setting is great! Students need to realize that there is a time and a place for different registers of language. I like that you are thinking of having this conversation with them.