6 Start with the Problem

Detailed Description of Learning Activity

Before you open the textbook or introduce a new topic, start with the real-life problem for which knowing the theory will solve it.

For example, what if you were a surgeon who needed to use two plates from a stack to secure a bone break but there were no labels or information on or about the plates? How would you determine which plates were stainless steel?

Group the students into pairs with a couple different pieces of material. Ask the groups to come up with a solution to the problem using their text books, online resources, tools, equipment, prior experience, etc.

Have the students present their solution and rationale to the group. When completed, ask the teams to vote on which team had the best solution to the problem.

Purpose of Activity

  • Have students engage in an authentic task.
  • Provide a purpose for knowing the theory.

What Makes This Open?

  • Students create content.
  • Collaborative/team-based learning.
  • Incorporates reflective practice.


Problem-solving is an important skill in the trades. This could be used anecdotally to assess how students approach novel problems.


Activity Time
Explanation of activity and organization of groups 15 min
Collaborative research and problem-solving 1 hour
Sharing and peer discussion 30 min

Resources Required

  1. Access to internet and other informative resources.
  2. Collaborative space (virtual or face-to-face).


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Open Pedagogy in the Trades Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Neid and Nicki Rehn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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