ENG-643 / 2 credits

Teacher(s): Deparis Simone, Isaac Siara Ruth, Eigenbrot Ilya Vladimirovich

Language: English

Remark: Teaching assistants in First Year courses are the intended audience for this course - please contact the instructors if you are not currently involved in such a course. Fall & Spring sem.


Every year


Problem solving is a core engineering skill. This course explores relevant heuristics, epistemologies, metacognitive skills and evidence-informed teaching strategies for developing problem solving skills that transfer from paper-based exercises to complex, real world engineering situations.



problem solving, teaching, first year, learning sciences

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Describe Polya's problem solving method and explain how problem solving heuristics shape how we approach problems
  • Analyze characteristics of different problem solving situations (routine problems, ill-structured problems, etc.) and relevant types of practice (deliberate practice, spaced practice, etc.)
  • Develop teaching interventions that align with current understanding of how we learn (cognitive and social)
  • Formulate questions and feedback to guide students to develop robust, autonomous problem solving and meta cognitive strategies
  • Create opportunities to support students' metacognition, ability to manage uncertainty and epistemic cognition to support their problem solving skills
  • Facilitate interactive sessions with students or student assistants, employing instructional strategies that foster a climate conducive to learning

Transversal skills

  • Evaluate one's own performance in the team, receive and respond appropriately to feedback.
  • Communicate effectively, being understood, including across different languages and cultures.
  • Take responsibility for health and safety of self and others in a working context.
  • Assess one's own level of skill acquisition, and plan their on-going learning goals.

Expected student activities

Course activities - apply, discuss and get feedback on evidence-informed strategies for teaching problem solving

  • Teaching Toolkit for EXERCISES workshop (6h; before the start of the semester): An interactive opportunity for participants to practice teaching with questions and process-oriented feedback to support students'€™ problem solving activities.
  • Toolkit2 workshop (3h; week 0/1 ): Participants practice demonstrating Polya'€™s 4-step problem solving method and explore strategies for promoting interactivity and engagement during the workshops for student assistants.
  • Workshops for student assistants (5h; during the semester): Participants will co-facilitate (week 1/2) and facilitate (week 5/6 or 9/10) workshops for current student assistants around supporting student learning and problem solving during exercise sessions. Participants will receive feedback from students and from course instructors.

Main course resources - introduction to the learning science research underpinning current understanding of how people learn

Assessment methods

20% intermediate written reports (week 3; week 7 or 11) 
80% final report (week 17)



Additional resources

  • Hanstedt, P. (2018). Creating wicked students: Designing courses for a complex world. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
  • Polya, G. (2004). How to solve it: A new aspect of mathematical method (No. 246). Princeton University press.
  • Kober, N. (2015). Reaching Students: What Research Says about Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Wakeford, Richard (2003) Principles of student assessment in Fry et al. (eds.) A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education, enhancing academic practice, 2nd edition.
  • Nilson, L. B. (2010) Teaching at its best: a research-based resource for college instructors. Hoboken, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Crawley, Edward et al. (2014) Rethinking engineering education, the CDIO approach, 2nd edition
  • Entwistle, N (2009) Teaching for understanding at university, deep approaches and distinctive ways of thinking. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ressources en bibliothèque

In the programs

  • Exam form: Project report (session free)
  • Subject examined: Teaching problem solving
  • Lecture: 10 Hour(s)
  • Exercises: 10 Hour(s)
  • Practical work: 20 Hour(s)

Reference week