Extended Reasoning – Teaching Activities Enhanced with Technology

Mind map showing 6 extended reasoning activities: ill structured problems, problem based learning, enter a contest, theme parks, promotional stalls and create a country

  1. Escape rooms

Icon showing 3 people working together

Escape rooms are “live-action team-based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited time” (Nicholson, 2015). To create an escape room, the following elements need to be included,

  • An engaging scenario explaining why students need to ‘escape the room.’
  • 10 activities for students to solve in order to reach the final mission and ‘escape the room’.  The end mission could be achieved by completing all the tasks to e.g. collate all the different parts of a picture or statement
  • Each activity should have a title to give the students a clear focus on what factors of the topic they are addressing
  • On completion of each single activity, students should gain a clue which directs them to the next challenge
  • To create a real ‘escape room,’ the completion of any of the ten activities should provide students with the possibility of either opening a lock with a key or code, shine a UV torch onto an invisible message or maybe use a Mexican code wheel to decipher a message.
  • The tasks to release the clue can also come in many formats, e.g. solving a riddle, identification of a prop, reading a written account, multiple choice quizzes, crosswords, Tarsia etc.  To add in more critical evaluation, you could also throw in a few red herrings or trick questions
  • Have some appropriate music playing in the background to set the scene
  • Students can check the correct answer to the task with the lecturer, but the lecturer should only confirm if they are right or not; if an incorrect answer is given, they must return to the task and try again

Escape rooms can be applied to a range of disciplines, for example creating a reconstruction of events for history, tor identifying the cause of a disease outbreak for healthcare.  Visit activehistory for some fantastic examples of escape rooms.

Enhance with technology

3 logos: socrative, quizizz and quizalize

To reduce the level of lecturer input during the separate tasks, many could be set up to provide instant feedback. So, when students complete a task correctly, the clue relating to where a key or code is can be provided automatically to them. For example, create multiple choice quizzes using Socrative, Quizizz or Quizalize.

Use Socrative to create interactive quizzes in a variety of formats. Download a Socrative instruction guide for teachers or students below.

With Quizalize, if students are struggling to provide the correct answers, different support and extension activities can be supplied after the quiz completion. So, if they score less than 50%, they can be assigned another activity, thus enabling the lecturer to signpost the students to other resources to develop understanding. This is a great feature and makes Quizalize one of my favourite tech tools.

Quizalize provides a room code which students need to type in to access the activity, and there are multiple pre-made quizzes, which can be downloaded for free.

An image of a qr code and 2 logos: thinglink and mentimeter

Another activity could be to include a video question and answer task or use QR codes to direct students to specific websites to find the answers. Alternatively, annotate images and videos using ThingLink to direct students to websites to find the answers to the clues.

If you want to facilitate more discussion of the topic after the activity has ended, use Mentimeter which can display students responses to questions on the whiteboard. One of the tasks in the escape room could instruct students to post two truths about the topic and one lie. These will be saved on the Mentimeter platform so that once everyone has finished the escape room, every group’s truths and lies can be shown on the board to discuss.

playposit logo- just playposit on a blue rectangle

According to Microsoft (2019) ‘PlayPosit is an online learning platform to create and share interactive video lessons’. Instructors begin with any online video (YouTube, Khan Academy, TED, MP4s, etc.) and transform what is traditionally passive content into an active experience for learners with time-embedded activities.

Still or moving images can be placed alongside each other, with a video playing on one side. PlayPosit can also be used to create interactive maps or graphs, and even allows for quizzes and comments to be added on screen. The possibilities are endless!

  2. Reverse case study

Icon showing 3 people working together

A reverse case study involves higher-order thinking skills of analysis, evaluate and create as it requires the application of previous knowledge in a different context with problem-solving strategies and creative thinking (Smallheer, 2015,p,7). Students are placed into groups of four, and each group is provided with the following,

-An incomplete case study– depending on the topic, various important details should be omitted, such as location, time, age of person or an artefact

-A bag of 10 props – each prop should enable the student to create multiple potential scenarios when applied to the case study.     I have used this whereby I created a case study around someone who had experienced a stroke. I omitted details such as age, lifestyle and time taken to get to a hospital. The students had to determine the various courses of action that could be taken, using all or some of the props provided. The bag of props I used included,

-Three empty medication boxes (each different and could only be administered in certain circumstances; this encouraged the students to develop three different scenarios).

-A pacemaker alert bracelet (this would affect the type of scan the patient could have)  

-A blood pressure monitor (students determine how low or high blood pressure could impact)

-A bottle of herbal home remedies (students consider whether herbal remedies would have any implications for treatment

-Two CT scan images (each labelled as a different type of stroke, this would further determine treatment methods)

-An empty packet of cigarettes (to include a consideration of lifestyle)

-A blood glucose meter (to encourage students to consider potential risk factors and what patient guidance could be provided as a result).

Students must understand the impact of the props to evaluate how each one could result in a different scenario. The use of textbooks, previous notes and additional research is permitted. On completion of the task, students update the case study; they use all or some of the props to fill in missing information, including details such as the type of stroke and the treatment provided.

Each group will write the case study differently, depending on what scenario they created with their props. They then present this to the class, and students can discuss whether the new case study would result in the predictions made. There will be multiple scenarios being presented, facilitating the discussion of a broad range of factors. Also, despite all students starting with the same case study, each presentation will cover slightly different aspects, this will increase engagement as students are not merely listening to a range of identical presentations.

The reverse case study method can be applied to a variety of different disciplines such as law, with the props relating to the actions of an individual, or use a coastal management case study for geography alongside tourism and industry-based props. For literature studies, the case study could summarise an upcoming paragraph in a book, and the props could facilitate students in recognising how character actions are responsible for the development of the plot. Alternatively, a historical case study could be used, with the props based on various significant factors which could have led to a different outcome of events.

3. Hoax design

A yellow magnifying glass

Provide students with news stories or web articles, along with a help-sheet on how to deconstruct web pages, in order to evaluate the reliability. Control Alt Achieve has a list of hoax sites which could be used for the evaluation.

For the second part of this activity, provide a series of topic related statements for students to research to determine if they are fact or fiction; a simple true/false response is not allowed, students must justify by evaluating the science or theory behind their claim. Some examples of correct and incorrect statements I have used are,

  • Alcohol hand gel kills all dangerous microbes
  • The ‘five second rule’ is an inaccurate hygiene concept
  • Washing meat and poultry before cooking is good practice
  • Freezing, thawing and cooking always kills bacteria

On completion, discuss the findings and get students to complete a self-evaluation sheet on what they have learned about hoax websites.

 Enhance with technology

2 logos: pocket and evernote.

Sometimes, if students are accessing the hoax websites online, they tend to ‘Google’ whether the example is a hoax or not, rather than completing the deconstruction element. To avoid this, the webpage could be saved or printed for offline viewing, which can be done with something like Pocket.

Pocket has a range of uses and can be helpful for this task as it saves webpages, articles and videos for offline viewing. The lecturer can then share these with students without the need to connect to the internet to view. Alternatively, clip and save the webpage using Evernote to then print off for students to evaluate.

4. Past artefacts

A yellow magnifying glass

Provide students with images of old artefacts, or even better the actual objects themselves. Instruct students to identify the different features, materials and overall design of the artefact to determine how the structure is linked to function.

Then present students with a new or current version of the artefact and ask to appraise the overall quality, consider what has prompted any changes in design, evaluate the impact of these changes and consider any implications for future use or potential development opportunities.

I use this activity to compare medical tools from the past to the present and can often buy many old tools or replicas from Ebay fairly cheaply. This activity would also suit a range of other disciplines, whereby students could also evaluate changes in mechanical tools, cooking tools, building materials, textiles, tools for measurements or monitoring tools.

  Enhance with technology

Gosoapbox logo.

To add a bit more fun and challenge, put students into pairs and provide each with an artefact from the past. They must complete the analysis and evaluation as before, but this time they must find an image representing the present artefact by researching online. At this point each pair should also be issued with an envelope containing a card with either ‘truth’ or ‘lie’ written on it. If students get the truth card, they must find the image of the artefact currently used today. If students get the lie card, they must find an image of an artefact which could be a plausible replacement, but is not. On completion, students write a short pitch for delivery to the class, to convince them of the reasons why their artefact has changed and how it has been enhanced.

While delivering their pitch, the other students can use GoSoapBox, which is a great tool to get the whole audience involved (the free version allows up to 30 participants). It is a flexible classroom response system, but the useful function to be utilised in this activity is the ‘confusion barometer’. If at any point during the student’s pitch, a member of the audience becomes confused, the audience member can click to indicate they are either confused or need the student presenters to slow down.

The students delivering the pitch receive this as a graphical representation on a computer screen and must adapt their pitch accordingly. GoSoapBox enables whole class interaction, and it also helps students to develop their verbal presenting skills. On completion of the pitch, students must determine whether they have been told the truth or a lie.

5. Then and now

silouette of a head with 2 cogs for the brain

Provide students with a theory or idea which was believed to be right in the past, and then provide a theory or idea from the present, which contradicts this.

Students must justify why the present facts disprove the theory’s predecessor and then determine the range of new knowledge needed, for the current theory to be accepted. Students must also evaluate the impact of the new theory or idea.

 Enhance with technology

Adobe Express has a free sign-up account which can be set up instantly and enables students to select from thousands of templates to create graphics, video slideshows and more.

6. Conclusions

Basic icon of a piece of paper with a pen

‘There isn’t one way to write a conclusion, and following one particular structure could lead to conclusions becoming very formulaic’ (University of Leeds, 2019). Conclusions often follow the very basic format of ‘Today I have discussed X, which caused, Y and then Z’, which can be uninteresting and monotonous to read. This activity is based on getting students to assess different conclusions, but may need to be adapted in accordance with the discipline being covered.

Provide students with a range of example conclusions, either from anonymous past work or from sample research papers based on their current topic. Students work in groups to mark the conclusions using the guidelines below to assign the conclusion points out of 10.

  • Does the conclusion start with a clear topic sentence?
  • Does it reiterate the main points?
  • Does it make any recommendations or ‘calls for action’, linking how they are justified or contradicted in accordance with the findings discussed? (Chuang, 2017).
  • Are there any predictions or requirements for further research?
  • Does the conclusion answer the ‘so what’ question? Is it clear as to why what has been written matters? (The reader must be left with an understanding of the significance of the essay or report).
  • What does the reader take away from this piece of writing?

Also mix in some incorrect suggestions to the list, these will be things which definitely shouldn’t be in a conclusion and could include,

  • Does the conclusion summarise all the information discussed in the essay/report?
  • Does the conclusion include new information or statistics?

At the start of the activity, students are not told whether all these elements should definitely be in a conclusion so they will award grades in relation to what they believe makes a good conclusion.

When students have judged each paper and ranked them according to whether they think they have strong or weak conclusions, discuss their decision making as a class. Identify what the essential elements should be and then discus what should not be included. Students then re-evaluate their original marks and adapt if necessary.

Enhance with technology

image of a rubric

iRubric is a free tool to create rubrics. A rubric will enable a more critical and guided response to the questions above, and iRubric allows rubrics to be produced quickly and effortlessly. Not only does iRubric make the creation of rubrics easier, but it also provides a more collaborative approach to the grading activity.

The lecturer can assign a rubric to a document to then share with the class, and a live report of results will be created, so the lecturer can quickly gauge student’s views on the conclusion being assessed.

7. Ill-structured problems

Silouette of a head with a question mark in the centre

A well-structured problem involves setting a problem and, providing the right method is followed, there will be a ‘correct’ answer. In contrast to this, ill-structured problems do not have a specific answer; there may be too many conflicting theories, data or disagreements to arrive confidently at one particular conclusion.

Ill-structured problems can be based on finding solutions to real-world problems such as famine, war or environmental concerns, or they could be based on resolving a workplace or procedural difficulty. Examples of ill-structured problems could be to ‘redesign a work process, create a new marketing strategy, design a new underground subway to join two or more countries, increase the water supply of a community or predict how to dispose of nuclear waste safely’ (Wikiversity, 2018; SERC, 2018).

Students will only be aware of the starting point of the problem and will have to devise a plan, goals and solutions for it. As a result of there being no right or wrong answer, students will be using their skills of analysis to evaluate the available data or information already known, to then justify and create a suitable solution. The end product could be a written proposal or the creation of a model.

Enhance with technology

2 logos: google and answergarden

If the ill-structured problem is a current topical issue, students can set up a Google Alert. The alert tool enables students to be sent notifications every time any new content on that topic is written online. To facilitate a thought-shower, students could use a range of questionnaire-based tools such as SurveyMonkey or they could use AnswerGarden.

AnswerGarden is quick to launch and requires no online account set-up. Students go to the AnswerGarden home page and click the ‘plus’ button at the top of the page to create an AnswerGarden. They then type in the question they wish to ask the class and click create. There is the option to share in multiple ways, such as using the QR code function, so students scan the QR with their phones to access the question.

8. Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Silouette of a head with a question mark in the centre

PBL provides the opportunity for students to take control of their learning through inquiry-based tasks involving analysis of research, evaluation techniques and the subsequent creation of an end product (Bell, 2010). The student’s investigations into authentic problems should consist of two essential elements,

1.They must have a driving question to base subsequent activities around, but ensure this is not so constrained that the students have little opportunity to develop their approaches (Blumenfeld et al.,1991, p.372).

2.The resulting activities from the question or problem should result in a final product (Blumenfeld et al.,1991, p.371).

The Buck Institute for Education provides a multitude of ideas for projects and gives advice on how to create suitable driving questions. Additionally, Edutopia also provides some valuable guidance on how to get students started with their PBL. Although there is a cost to enter, the CREST awards for science and engineering enables students to gain recognition for their project work and is for students aged from 5 to 16+ years.

CREST awards also issue downloadable teacher resources to give ideas on delivery strategies. Upon completion of the project work, it is uploaded to CREST for moderation, and they will send certificates and awards, which are respected by universities and future employers (British Science Association, 2018).

Enhance with technology

3 logos: socrative, evernote and mendeley. Then a picture of a rubric

Students can use a wide range of different online resources to support their project. For the research element, students could first create a poll or questionnaire to get feedback on their initial design ideas by using Socrative or Crowdsignal.

For the research tasks, the use of social bookmarking tools such as Diigo or Evernote will help them to keep track of their sources. If the research is more journal-based, then something like Mendeley is useful to store their articles. Mendeley is a free reference manager and an academic social network, enabling students to manage their research, showcase their work and connect and collaborate with other researchers worldwide (Elsevier, 2019). To evaluate the research or project, iRubric can be used to create a structured method of self-assessment.

9. Enter a contest

Icon showing 3 people working together

Although the role of competition in education is often viewed as being somewhat controversial, the collaboration and team-working involved has been found to create a healthy and productive learning experience (Makhoul et al.,2018; Institute of Competition Sciences, 2018).

Students could reinvent something we take for granted, create an innovative vegetarian dish or design a new campaign to promote college values. These can then be showcased in the classroom or at a college event, to be judged by lecturers or visitors/guests from the local community. On completion, students could use their experiences to decide on a title for a contest to be run the following year for new students, with the best idea being determined through class voting.

Enhance with technology

National stem learning centre logo and Sketchup logo

There are a multitude of competitions to enter, which can be found through a quick Google search and these are often sponsored by various businesses and organisations, resulting in prizes for the school and individuals.

STEM learning posts regular challenges for students to create a product or find a solution to a problem, or Young fashion designer UK provides a platform for young fashion designers to showcase their work and gain recognition for their ideas and talent. Whatever the disciple there is usually a competition for students to showcase their skills to a broader audience.

The planning phase to create the end product may require prototypes to be modelled in order to identify any potential flaws/problems needing to be rectified. There are plenty of free design tools available online for students to create such prototypes.

Sketchup has the option of setting up a free account and is a ‘3D modelling computer program for a wide range of drawing applications such as architectural, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering, film, and video game design’ (The Technology Geek, 2019). Sketchup does not contain the same level of functionality as other paid-for drawing applications like AutoCAD, but it is free and relatively easy to use.

10. Theme parks

Picture of a theme park ferris wheel and swing

I am not sure who to give the original credit for this activity, but I think it is a great idea whoever it was. Students have to design a theme park based on a particular topic, for example, they could create a theme park based on different animals or different landmarks in an area. My favourite application of ‘theme parks’ is to design a theme park based on the human digestive system. Students must first be able to label the different parts of the digestive system and understand the processes that take place in each area. Students will then need to match suitable theme park rides to the different areas of the digestive system, justifying their choices.

Further development of ideas will follow, by conducting more research and analysis of the more complex processes taking place in each area, and make any revisions if necessary. In matching the different organs to theme park rides, students will need to assess the suitability of their chosen rides for the process it is supposed to reflect. For this, they should take into consideration things like e.g. the speed of the ride (if it is a slow process in the digestive system then the ride selected to match should also be slow), or the size of the ride whereby height restrictions could reflect the size of an organ.

In addition to the rides, drinks stalls can also be included to represent the concentration of different fluids, e.g. bile. The end product can be created as a model, and there are some great examples of completed models if you search ‘digestive system theme parks’ on Google images. It is easier to do this activity if you are trying to teach about a particular process or system, but it can be applied to a whole range of disciplines.

Enhance with technology

An image of a QR code

Students could jazz up their finished models by adding QR codes for viewers to scan and be taken to more interactive resources. The QR code could direct viewers to a video that explains a process in more detail, or it could be a video of the theme park itself, with a short 30-minute rollercoaster ride so viewers feel like they are really there.

11. Create a promotional stall

Icon showing 3 people working together

Provide students with a design brief for the activity, e.g. ‘The local council is concerned about the increasing amount of rubbish littering the street, design a promotional stall to raise awareness of this issue to the public’. Or, ‘recent news stories have highlighted the increasing problem of binge drinking, design a stall to educate others on the dangers of excessive alcohol intake’. Creating a promotional stall will require students to, firstly understand why a problem has arisen, to then devise strategies to address it. They will need to analyse other campaigns and promotions to assess why they have or not been successful and apply these principles to their design ideas.

There should also be an investigation into how promotions work in general and an assessment of different ways to educate the public, to ensure students create a stall which is as effective and accessible as possible. A wealth of visual material will need to be created, which could include leaflets, posters, flyers, charts and graphs. Additionally, an interactive game or another practical element will also help the students to engage visitors when visiting their stall.

Enhance with technology

2 logos: canva and meistertask

Microsoft Word and Publisher are commonly used to create posters or leaflets, but Canva will enable students to design much more visually enhanced materials.

Canva has templates to create posters, banners, cards, flyers, logos brochures, etc. or students can design their own from scratch. Canva is also useful for creating infographics, which enables a quick, clear way for students to provide a quick evaluation of the knowledge base to gain the attention of visitors to their stall.To download a helpsheet for your students on how to use Canva, click the link below

To stay on track, students could also use a free project management tool, such as MeisterTask; students set up a project, record tasks to be completed, set time frames, and mark tasks as complete.

MeisterTask also has a mind mapping tool to enable students to thought shower ideas with others real-time, and the whole project can be shared with the lecturer to allow for easy tracking of progress. MeisterTask is a great tool that allows a log of every event and idea to be recorded and monitored all in one place.

12. Create a country

A globe

This activity requires students to analyse and evaluate a whole range of information to create their own country. Elements to consider could be laws, the rights of people, leadership and government, language, natural resources, maps or weather. Students will create their own countries based on the best qualities and features of existing countries. Create a country is a great activity to learn about a wide range of concepts, such as geography, environmental studies, politics, social sciences, health sciences, and engineering.

Enhance with technology

4 logos: mindmup,snazzymaps, surveymonkey and poll everywhere

The technology tools will very much depend on the topic and focus introduced by the lecturer, and will probably involve a range of research type activities.

Some ideas could be to start with a collaborative thought shower using MindMup. Or, students could use Snazzy Maps or ZeeMaps to create a map of their country and they can also add-in any markers, highlight regions or add text annotations.

To develop ideas on what would be the essential human rights for their country, students could run a class questionnaire using SurveyMonkey or Poll Everywhere and then select the top answers. To extend, these questions could be posted to a broader audience on Twitter or Facebook using Easypolls. Using surveys and polls will help students to gain a broader perspective on the issues impacting on people and develop a less bias approach.


Bell.S. (2010). ‘Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future’ The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 83:2, 39-43, DOI: 10.1080/00098650903505415

Blumenfeld, P.C., Soloway, E., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Guzdial, M., Palincsar, A. (1991). ‘Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning’. Educational Psychologist, 26 (3&4), pp. 371-2.

British Science Association. (2018). What is CREST? Available at: https://www.crestawards.org/what-is-crest (last accessed 10/05/2019)

Chuang, F-Y. (2017). Writing a conclusion. Available at: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/globalpad/openhouse/academicenglishskills/writing/conclusions/ (last accessed 28/04/2019)

Elsevier. (2019). About Mendeley. Available at: https://www.elsevier.com/solutions/mendeley (last accessed 06/05/2019)

Institute of Competition Sciences. (2018). 10 ways competitions enhance learning. Available at: https://www.competitionsciences.org/2016/07/04/10-ways-competitions-enhance-learning/ (last accessed 10/05/2019)

Makhoul, I, Motwani, P, Schafer, L, Arnaoutakis, K, Mahmoud, F, Safar, M, Graves, D, Mehta, P, Govindarajan, R, Hutchins, L & Thrush, C. (2018). ‘Integrating Collaborative Learning and Competition in a Hematology/Oncology Training Program’, Journal of Cancer Education, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 186–192.

Microsoft. (2019). Playposit. Available at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/playposit/9nl2vdvgjb51?activetab=pivot%3Aoverviewtab (last accessed 04/05/2019)

Nicholson, S. (2015). Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities. Available at:  http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/erfacwhite (last accessed 04/05/2019)

SERC. (2018). Well structured versus ill-structured problems. Available at: https://serc.carleton.edu/sp/carl_ltc/quantitative_writing/wellversusill (last accessed 10/05/2019)

Smallheer, B.A. (2015). ‘Reverse case study: A New Perspective on an Existing Teaching Strategy’. Nurse Educator, Vol 41 (1) p.7. Available at: https://www.nursingcenter.com/wkhlrp/Handlers/articleContent.pdf?key=pdf_00006223-201601000-00004 (last accessed 04/05/2019)

The Technology Geek. (2019). Sketchup review. Available at: https://thetechnologygeek.org/sketchup-review/ (last accessed 10/05/2019)

University of Leeds. (2019). Essay Writing. Available at: https://library.leeds.ac.uk/info/14011/writing/112/essay_writing/7 (last accessed 05/05/2019)

Wikiversity. (2018). Introduction to Ill-structured problems. Available at: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Introduction_to_Ill-Structured_Problems#quiz0 (last accessed 10/05/2019)