Addressing Authentic Problems

Element 10.8: Engages students in inquiry to address authentic and/or complex problems with no obvious answer

Why is this important?
If we are educating our students to be the problem-solvers of the future they need to be equipped to face questions that have no obvious or only one solution. After all, that is the type of problem they will encounter in life. To develop persistence, students should encounter many interesting problems to solve, while teachers coach, question and support. This will help students build the necessary experience and confidence they need to be prepared to meet challenges successfully.


You may want to start here: Getting Started with Student Inquiry is a short guide to inquiry-based learning produced by the province of Ontario. The Buck Institute for Education's 3 Tips for Planning Authentic PBL Projects provides an overview of how this might look in a project-based learning experience.

See it in action:
  • Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Driven, video from Edutopia with overview and steps towards implementation.
  • Intro to Ratios - middle school lesson making use of modeling to develop a strong understanding of proportional relationships from the teachingchannel.org.
  • Math in the Common Core Classroom - integration of math and other subjects with a focus on empowering students to use strategies to solve real world issues with a strong focus on process from the teachingchannel.org.
  • Save the Beach - a high school interdisciplinary project designed around the use of media and scientific data to educate the public about local water quality from the Buck Institute for Education.
Sample lesson plans: 
  • Marshmallow Challenge - it's a simple task with surprising lessons. Link includes lesson plans, learning outcomes, video samples, power point and a Ted Talk by Tom Wujec.

After exploring this high impact strategy:

1. What are your most important takeaways?

2. In what ways do you anticipate this will impact or shift your practice?

3. What questions do you have at this point?