Problem Design – Intro

I’ve been intrigued for the last few days by problem design. I think that the fundamental unit of teaching is the question, and while there’s a ton of relationship building, classroom management and more to teaching, the quality of our question is what makes a class.

These ideas came from this post from Ben Blum-Smith, proposing the development of a critical language of problem design. Ben introduces two words, from Cody Patterson that I love — jamming and thwarting — and goes on to say

We’re talking about a whole language of task design. I’m imagining having a conversation with a fellow educator, and having access to hundreds of different pedagogically powerful ideas like these, neatly packaged in catchy usable words. “I see you’re thwarting the quadratic formula pretty hard here, so I’m wondering if you want to balance it out with some splitting / smooshing / etc.” (I have no idea what those would mean but you get the idea.)

Anyway, challenge accepted. My goal, over the next few days or weeks or whatever, is to assemble  a language of problem solving as Ben defines it. I’ve got a list of 12 types of questions so far, and I’m hoping to be able to articulate many more. I don’t have any big dreams of pushing these into the teaching lexicon, but I find the act of naming, defining and categorizing the principles of my intellectual work incredibly valuable to my practice — and hopefully it can be helpful to others as well. Here goes.

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