Critical Thinking and Problem Solving


1. Blogging: 4th and 5th posting due was last week

2. Sharing blogging resources through Edmodo due was last Tuesday

2. Make sure you’ve responded to the Web check-in in the last Thursday’s class blog post

PART ONE: Group problem solving activity

PART TWO: Problem solving

Within your group – respond to one of the following questions:

  • There are 2 types of problems: open-ended and close-ended. Which was the balancing activity? Which was the marshmallow challenge?
  • How is the balance activity an inquiry activity?
  • Could the balance activity be considered problem-based learning?
  • When have you experienced the problem-based learning approach in your classes? (What is problem-based learning?)
  • How is this connected to critical thinking? For that matter, what IS critical thinking?

Here’s the NETS for problem solving (and other related areas):

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making: Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:

a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

Let’s watch this video and how researchers define critical thinking.

PART THREE: Problem-based learning (PBL) vs. Project-based learning (PBL)

I believe most of us won’t like to learn something that is not applicable in our daily life, right?  I remember I always asked myself the same question when I was learning advanced mathematics in high school.  For example, calculating the probability.  Do I need to know what the probability of taking a green ball out of the bag while there are 2 green balls mixed with 3 red balls and 2 yellow balls?  Therefore, we try to make everything more real and applicable.  That is the problem-based learning.  We try to solve the real-world/ authentic problems.  You see a lot of problem-based learning in architecture education, business education and medical education.

A lot of problem-based learning is strongly connected with project-based learning.  Project-based learning does not need to tackle with a real-world problem.  At the same time, students are usually more involved or have much more control in the project.

Let’s watch this video about problem-based learning and project-based learning. 



Let’s look at more examples from previous semesters (example 1 & example 2).

After looking at the student examples, what questions do you have? How do you think the adventure could have been improved? Do you notice any missing elements of  the adventure that could have made it better? Think on this – maybe as we work through the project, you will want to go about it differently. That’s okay! Just be sure to talk with me to let me know your ideas.


Let’s look at the grading rubric so you’ll understand what needs to be included in each section.

STEP ONEWhat is an essential question?

You’ll want to get students interested in your topic by starting with an essential question. We’re going to try and write a few ourselves today.

  1. On an index card, write a question related to a topic about which you enjoy learning. For example, “what happened to the dinosaurs?”, “why did the Titanic sink”, etc.
  2. Get in a group with 3 other classmates, and use a tubric to turn your question into an essential question.
  3. How good is your question? Use the essential question development checklist on the last page of this handout to see how well you did.

Share at least one good question with the class. Then, as a class, we’ll form a definition of essential questions and talk about how you can use these in your Learning Adventures.


1. Review your Learning Adventure Topic

2. Come with outlines of your Learning Adventure Project. We will use our class time to create activities. Outlines include Essential questions, brainstorming, outlining, and learning goals. You may want to create your website during the weekend.


  • 11/13: Outlining: Essential questions, brainstorming, outlining, learning goals
  • 11/18: Creating Websites, Hook, Activities
  • 11/20: (Feedback Day): Descriptions of Activities, Letters, Apply
  • 12/2 and 12/4: Presentation
  • 12/9: submission due

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