Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: November 4, 2009

Debby R. Walser-Kuntz, Sarah E. Deel, and Susan R. Singer
Carleton College, Northfield, MN

What is Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving?

In this class format, students work collaboratively to solve problems, while professors provide a structured, guided context. Each class is designed specifically to support students as they apply and synthesize new concepts they are learning; faculty introduce new concepts and play an active role interacting with each group of students as they work on problems. As student proficiency with problem-solving and content increases throughout the term, problems become more sophisticated, reinforcing earlier course concepts.

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Why Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving?

By collaboratively solving problems, students become active participants in the classroom, and they have the opportunity to immediately apply new information. The faculty presence in the classroom allows formative assessment on an ongoing basis and the opportunity to identify and correct misconceptions as they arise. Because students are working problems in class and getting immediate feedback, the faculty-coached approach increases students' studying efficiency and effectiveness. Faculty can fill in missing gaps in understanding, get students back on track quickly, and guide students to solving problems on their own. This approach has been shown to be effective in classrooms with students from diverse educational backgrounds.

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How to Teach with Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving

Successful use of this approach depends on integrating short, interactive lectures with carefully designed problems and answer keys, management of student groups, and productive coaching. Formative assessment based on hearing student questions and group discussions allows the instructor to adjust the syllabus, design new problems, or return to particularly confusing topics in a subsequent lecture.

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Examples of Teaching with Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving


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