Structured Problem Solving


In this activity, students benefit from the verbalization, from the opportunity to exchange differing perspectives, and from the peer coaching that helps high and low achievers, alike. Less class time is wasted on inappropriate responses, and the principle of simultaneity is operative because at any given time 25% of the students are vocal within their groups. Students become actively involved with the material and, since no one knows which number the teacher will call, each has a vested interest in being able to articulate the appropriate response. Those chosen randomly as spokespersons (often students who do not volunteer during a whole-class discussion) feel far less threatened giving a team, rather than an individual, answer.


1. Members of learning teams, usually composed of four individuals, count off: 1, 2, 3, and 4. 

2. The teacher poses a question or problem requiring higher order thinking skills. 

3. Students discuss the question or solve the problem, making certain that every group member can summarize the group's discussion or can explain the problem. Sponges or extensions with additional content-related problems or activities are particularly important here for teams working faster than others. 

4. The instructor calls a specific number and the designated team members (1, 2, 3, or 4) respond as group spokespersons. To avoid repetition, faculty members will usually ask for responses from only three to six groups. The desired learning will already have occurred.