Problem Solving and CriticalThinking– Day 2

12 Apr


By now, you should an idea about who you will be working with (or if you want to work alone) and an idea for your project. Make sure you reference this rubric throughout the project.

Let’s talk about critical thinking and problem solving.  Let’s look at the NETS again.

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:

  1. identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
  2. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
  3. collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
  4. use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

What does your book say about problem solving?

“Students apply critical and creative thinking skills to prior knowledge during the problem solving process. The end result of problem solving is typically some kind of a decision: choosing a solution and then evaluating it.” (p 155)

“Problem-based learning (PBL) is a teaching approach that combines critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and inquiry as students explore real-world problems. It is based on unstructured, complex, and authentic problems that are often presented as part of a project.” (p 156)

If you type the texts into a word cloud software, then you will see the word cloud like this.
Wordle: problem solving

Here is a video talking about project-based learning.


So, now, what’s the differences between project-based learning and problem-based learning?  Both of them are PBL in short term.  Some people are confused when they see PBL…I am one of them. 🙂

Let’s take a quick look at this article and figure out the differences.


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  another 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.


Think about lessons in school that really hooked you in, or made you want to engage in the lesson. The task and hook work hand in hand to focus the students on the learner outcomes. Designing the task and hook is a balancing act between providing the students with a direction and purpose, but not directing them with steps to follow or a menu of choices. The hook is just what it sounds like. It is a way to compel the students to want or need to know and learn the content the teacher has included in the project.

Some questions to think about:

  • Who owns the problem presented?
  • How does this problem relate to the student?
  • Does the task or problem pass the “so what” test?
  • Do the students have input as to how the task is approached?
  • Are there multiple solutions for the task?
  • Does the problem seem authentic for the student?
  • From (

The Anticipatory Set

  • Give some facts, interesting websites, additional questions, etc. – this is considered the anticipatory set – the part of the adventure where you get students excited about the question.
  • Include an appropriate online game or activity related to your question – don’t just provide a link – give students something specific to do
  • If appropriate for your topic – create a small gallery of photos that fit the question. But give students something to do with the pictures – or encourage them to create a photo album of their own pictures related to the question.

Let’s take a look at the previous students’ examples again.

Five Senses
Animals on the Farm
Health Adventure: You Are What You Eat
Adventure in the Wilderness


1. Finish the VoiceThread Discussion this Friday.

2. If you haven’t finished the four required reading guides today, you get one minus point already (unless you use your late pass).  Please upload all the reading guides to your e-portfolio by 12 PM next Monday.

3. Complete the first two parts in your Learning Adventure– the Inquire and the Hook.

4. If you have time, you can create a new Google site for your Learning Adventure.  Please note:  It is a NEW SITE, NOT a new page in your e-portfolio.  Also, please pay attention to these reminders:

  • Make sure the title of your site reflects the nature of your adventure.
  • Share permissions within your site with your partner of group if you have a partner. You will want to make sure your partner can make edits.
  • Make sure your navigation bar reflects the sections in the rubric: Author Introduction, Inquire, Hook, Organize, Explore, Show What you Know, Finding a Career, and Parent Teacher Letter.

5. If you are an education major, here are some readings about project-based learning for your reference.  We won’t have time to talk about these in class, but if you are interested in knowing more about PBL…you probably will get some ideas here.

  • This Scholastic article  is about project-based learning for Thursday’s class.
  • Here’s one about writing effective driving questions.
  • Read about a real-world example of project-based learning. Be prepared to share about it in class.
  • Listen to John Hunter talk about his World Peace game. Stick with it – it gets really interesting about 10 minutes in.


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