Students engage in collaborative problem-solving on open-ended problems with peers, working independently on subtasks.
In addition to learning the basic skills, students need time to work on open-ended problems (problems that don’t have one right answer, but may be solved in many different ways) to apply those skills. These types of problems are often best attacked as a group. For example, suppose students were presented with a problem where they needed to propose a plan to clean up a polluted river in their county (creating the “felt-need” to learn about water pollution and the polluted river in question.)
First, students might brainstorm a list of what they need to know, and then work individually to gather facts. Next, they might come together as a group to share their information and ideas, decide upon a solution, and figure out the best way to present their solution. Working well in a group does not come easily and requires the development of a set of skills, including: communicating ideas, sharing responsibility, listening, taking turns, etc. These skills can only be developed, maintained, and refined if they are used consistently.