Problem Solving Activities Workshop

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The ¨problem solving activities¨ workshop delivered during our annual KU Training Day last year, aimed at sharing and implementing 21st-century practices in every classroom, as well as, adapting or creating an activity that contains the four main 21st century skills. To start with the training, participants got to know each other, and they had to solve a challenge-puzzle without having any hints. Starting from that point, we discussed the skills they required to fulfill the task successfully. Participants provided vital elements that were of great help for the next part of the training: the theoretical part. In this section, we discussed along with participants the four primary skills of the 21st century: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The purpose of bringing this information to our training session was to raise awareness about high-value skills in all professions.

We used an example to address each ¨C¨. We could conclude that communication is about sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions. Also, participants discussed how technology had become an essential tool when communicating results and or decisions. With regards to collaboration, it is about promoting group work and cooperation and encouraging all students to give and embrace other people´s opinions. All participants agreed that critical thinking is something that most students struggle with since problem-solving is usually unidirectional, one way only. There is a need of thinking outside the box and finding in creativity, innovative ways to solve an issue or analyze data.

During this section of the workshop, participants received a template we suggested to plan problem-solving activities that involved the four C’s. This template suggested a scaffolded process, starting with a warm-up and finalizing with a meaningful application. They also used a checklist to have an idea on how to prepare in engaging and successful problem-solving activities.

During the practice part, we modeled two activities: A story, telling a problem, and the Island adventure. The participants worked in groups in both activities. In the picture story, they had to discover what the problem was by looking at a set of pictures, they heard each other’s opinions and looked for solutions to the puzzle the characters were experiencing. Most participants knew the next activity, but there was a twist at the end that surprised and challenged the group. Each group received a set of objects, but they had to choose four and justify their choice. After that, each group read a situation in which they had to use those four items to survive the island. We showed throughout the training, how simple activities could transform into complex challenges.

To conclude, we had participants work in groups and come up with an engaging problem-solving activity, or modify one of the activities provided. All groups shared their thoughtful creations, the rest reflected on how to implement each activity along the different levels and according to the skills developed during the solving process.

Through their talk, it was evident their enthusiasm to engage students in tasks that will prepare them for the 21st century.

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