Solve a Teaching Problem

This interactive tool helps instructors diagnose classroom problems, think about possible causes, and explore solutions.
Resource URL:
Author(s): 
Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Carnegie Mellon University
Published: 
2015
Product Type: 
Abstract: 

The Solve a Teaching Problem website walks users through a three-step process to identify strategies to address instructional problems in higher education. The strategies reflect sound learning principles and research.

Step 1: Identify a problem you encounter in your teaching. Users select a problem from a menu of problems under six categories:

  • Attitudes & Motivation
  • Prerequisite Knowledge & Preparedness
  • Critical Thinking & Applying Knowledge
  • Group Skills & Dynamics
  • Classroom Behavior & Etiquette
  • Grading & Assessment

Step 2: Identify possible reasons for the problem. Possible reasons for the problem are presented. For example, some of the reasons identified for why students don’t participate in class discussion are:

  • Students’ individual styles or personalities may inhibit their participation.
  • Students’ cultural values and norms may inhibit their participation.
  • Students may not have experience participating in discussions.
  • The physical environment is not conducive to discussion.

Step 3: Explore strategies to address the problem. Strategies are provided for instructors to consider. For the problem of individual styles or personalities inhibit participation, short descriptions are provided for the following strategies:

  • Help students to prepare in advance.
  • Involve all students.
  • Use groups.
  • Reward participation.
What the Experts Say: 

This is such an interesting resource that targets discrete teaching/learning problems. While on the surface it appears to primarily for teaching/learning in postsecondary education, it addresses a wide range of problems that vex most adult educators: students who come late to class; students who don’t seek help when they need it; teaching in classrooms where there is wide variation in knowledge and skills; designing group work that really works; understanding why tests may be too hard for students, and on and on. Along with short statements and paragraphs that help frame problems and solution strategies are links to sample activities, examples of student work, original research papers, student success brochures throughout the website.

This resource is a practical, how-to guide for college instructors. It could be a stimulus to useful conversation about student needs and instructor strategies to meet those needs, in a professional development context such as a study circle. Although it focuses on college, much of it would be relevant to the needs of adult education students.

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