Collective Problem Solving

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What is "Collective Problem Solving"?

Collective problem solving is a group exercise in which students share their solutions to a given problem on a common page, and comment on each other's solutions. An instructor or TA may also participate by giving feedback to the students directly on that page. The discussion pages created are kept for future references and cross-posting.


Why should students participate in collective problem solving?

  • Develop their critical skills
  • Learn about other ways to think about the problem
  • Get feedback from their peers
  • Develop their communication skills
  • etc.

Why should instructors encourage students to participate in collective problem solving?

  • to encourage learning
  • to give feedback more effectively
  • to learn how their students learn, what they know, where they struggle, ...
  • etc.

Ok I am convinced. Now what should I do?

If you are an instructor for a course:

  • First create a class wiki for your course. To do this, first log in with your career account and then click on the "create a course page" link in the left-hand-side of the screen.
  • After each lecture, post a couple of simple problems on your class wiki, and ask your students to tackle them before the following lecture. We recommend posting no more than one problem per page, and linking each problem page back to your class wiki.
  • If you are uncomfortable editing wiki pages, ask whether one of your students would be willing to volunteer to post the questions for you.
  • Consider giving feedback to the students directly on each problem page, or asking your TA to give feedback. You can use a different color for your comments to make them stand out.
  • Instruct your students not to erase their mistakes: we need to keep the mistakes so that everybody can learn from them, and not repeat them on the test!

If you are a student who would like to have collective problem solving exercises in a course you are taking:

  • Talk to your instructor about the idea of collective problem solving, and show him/her this page.
  • Ask your instructor whether he/she would be willing to give you a couple of simple problems to solve after each lecture. If he/she agrees but is uncomfortable editing wiki pages, then offer to post the questions yourself on the course wiki.
  • Attempt to solve every problem given by your instructor, and post your solution below each question. Ask other students in the class to do the same, and then comment on each others solutions.
  • Try to convince your instructor to get involved, ideally by giving you feedback directly on each problem page, or at least by reading your solutions and commenting them in class. However, if he/she is not interested, you will still learn a lot by sharing solutions with other students and commenting on each others work.

Where can I see some examples?

Some interesting examples of collective problem solving pages are listed below:

Here are some pages containing Collectively Solved Problems listed by subjects

Alumni Liaison

Ph.D. on Applied Mathematics in Aug 2007. Involved on applications of image super-resolution to electron microscopy

Francisco Blanco-Silva