Context Rich Problems

At the University of Minnesota Department of Physics we have cooperative group problem solving in our discussion sections. In plain English, this means we have groups of students working together to solve a problem. These groups are more than just students sitting together, but are structured learning groups, but this is the subject of another WWW page.

Through several years of evaluating these learning groups we have seen that in order for the groups to function properly, the problems need several characteristics:

In sort, traditional end-of-chapter textbook problems are inadequate.

To satisfy these constraints, we have created what we call context rich problems. Context rich problems have the characteristics listed above and more. They are strikingly different from traditional problems. Our use of context rich problems has expanded from our recitations into exams and our laboratories. Creating context-rich problems is not an obvious task, so we have guidelines to help people create context rich problems. Once a problem is created it is important to judge the problem for difficulty. It is easy to make context rich problems too difficult.