I learned this week that all problems could fit into three categories. There are well-structured problems which have one best answer. There are ill-structured problems which require “flexible access to, and application of highly organized systems of knowledge that must continually shift and evolve”(Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p.4). Finally, there are wicked problems, the issues that never get solved because they contain so many ever-changing variables.

This week I was asked to choose an ill-structured problem from my classroom and suggest a solution.  I finally settled on one that has become a pervasive issue in many of my classes. Teen anxiety is on the rise, and it presents itself in many forms. Teens that are feeling anxiety often experience problems with communication. They freeze up when called upon or have a question to ask the teacher, but the thought of asking in front of the rest of the class silences them. This is the ill-structured problem that anxiety creates. How do we re-open the lines of communication with students who are suffering from anxiety?

I submit Google Chat as a possible solution to this problem.  It is available to all my students and is easy to use on their Chromebooks. This app allows the students to take part in classroom discussions online, which is more comfortable for students experiencing anxiety. They can also use the tool to send a private message to the teacher with any questions so there is no anxiety over what the other students will think.

I see new problems that could arise with its use. It’s going to require more time for the teacher, and it could make the students too comfortable with online communication in place of face to face. As I start this new initiative with my students at least, I know some of the pitfalls.

References used in the video and blog post-

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pierce, Tamyra. Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. (2009). Computers in Human Behavior, 25(6), 1367-1372.

Swick, Susan D., & Jellinek, Michael S. Anxiety in teens. (2018). Family Practice News, 48(3).  Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A531979484/ITOF?u=msu_main&sid=ITOF&xid=02faae6b.

Varley, Christopher K. & Smith, Cindy J. Anxiety Disorder in the Child and Teen. (2003). The Pediatric Clinics of North America. 50(2003), 1107 – 1138.

2 thoughts on “So Many Problems

  1. Thank you for this presentation. It’s amazing how teachers/parents still consider this issue to be a “well-structured” problem. That is to say, some teachers and parents label quiet students “non-participants” and therefore offer the universal solution of the “participation grade.” I have even had supervisors count the number of students in my class that “participated” simply because they spoke. Google Chat is a great way both to illicit a different form of participation and also to document that participation in a sophisticated way. I will definitely consider this method as a future gauge for participation. Thanks again.


  2. James, that’s a great point about documentation. I think one advantage of online learning is how well we can document participation as opposed to the fleeting hand-raises/comments/questions shared in a face-to-face classroom. With a group of 25 students, how can you accurately assess who is engaged and to what extent when all participation is verbal/real time?


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