Pass the Problem

Submitted by Carolyn Caffrey on August 25th, 2016
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Short Description: 

This group activity can be used in a variety of disciplines and contexts. Pass the Problem aims to have students provide feedback to other students on database and keyword selection. By having students critique each other it works to build critical self-reflection during the research process (it's also pretty fun!).

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Learning Outcomes: 

Strategically select a database appropriate for their research topics Brainstorm keywords appropriate to a given research topic Evaluate the effectiveness of searching language

Individual or Group:

Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

This activity was part of a larger class session focused on preparing students for their interdisciplinary research projects. At this point in the semester students did not yet have their own research topics. It also took place outside of a computer classroom where not all students had laptops. Students break up into groups of 3-4 students. You can make as many topics as you want. For a class of 25 I created 4 topic options. Each group receives 5-10 minutes to complete each segment. When the timer is up they switch with a group. No one should receive the paper they start with until the very end. At the end of the activity we come back as a class and discuss how it went and what strategies they might implement in their own research processes. (I first heard about the idea of passing a problem in an interactive way from Sarah Lucchesi and Jenn Sams from Michigan Tech at Lake Superior Libraries Symposium, this is inspired by their idea.)

Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

Tips: Activity works well when paired with additional content. You can mix up the questions or add more. Pitfall: Choosing approachable topics with lots of keywords options. It can be hard to have students easily trade papers in classrooms set up with rows, you may need to facilitate the passing.

Suggested Citation: 
Caffrey, Carolyn . "Pass the Problem." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2016.