Problem Solving Fellows

The Problem-Solving Fellows (PSF) Program is anchored in a rigorous academic course focused on helping Undergraduate TAs be effective peer teachers in STEM courses that focus on group problem-solving. Problem-Solving Fellows take the course UNIV 1110: The Theory and Practice of Problem Solving.

The students in UNIV 1110 reflect on their own learning, in order to become highly effective problem solvers themselves. In this course, students discuss and practice components of problem-solving, learning theory, and evidence-based instructional teaching practice and gain skills that will aid them in their own learning, promote learning in others, improve communication and problem-solving capabilities, and prepare them to engage more deeply in diverse learning spaces. A Brown Daily Herald article about this course can be found here.

Outcomes for the course include:

  • Identify key problem-solving components in your discipline and how problem construction is influenced by environment and culture
  • Evaluate how biases are expressed throughout the problem-solving process (both your own and others)
  • Describe learning theory frameworks and how they apply to teaching and problem-solving to improve your interactions with a diverse population
  • Collaborate in a team and with a faculty member to (re)design an educational component or propose a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project with preliminary data
  • Support diverse students in their efforts to learn by identifying and fostering effective group dynamics to create inclusive and respectful learning environments
  • Use peer-feedback and self-reflection to learn best practices of scientific writing and teaching

Problem Solving Fellows have taught in the following courses:

BIOL 0380, BIOL 0530, CHEM 0330, CHEM 0360, CSCI 0180, CSCI 0220, ECON 0110, ENGN 0040, ENGN 1630, ENGN 1931Z, NEUR 1030, NEUR 2060


Beginning at the end of Fall 2020, students will apply to become a Problem Solving Fellow for the following Spring 2021 term. Students will be paid a stipend each term they are a PSF. Primary duties include:

  • Consulting with faculty to design and assess at least two problems for their course
  • Observing and providing feedback to UTAs in their problem solving teaching capacity
  • Leading departmental UTA pedagogical development workshops for UTAs who facilitate problem solving
  • Continue working on projects related to problem solving and teaching/learning from UNIV 1110

Required Qualifications

  • Completed the course UNIV 1110: The Theory and Practice of Problem Solving with a satisfactory grade
  • Has at least one term of experience as a UTA or an equivalent position as a peer educator (e.g. tutor, peer mentor for the New Scientist program, etc. )
  • Can describe the importance of creating inclusive learning spaces
  • Can maintain a high level of confidentiality

PSFs will be able to:

  • Design effective problems
  • Collaborate with faculty members and students about problem solving
  • Provide feedback to peers about their teaching and problem solving
  • Investigate and report on problem solving learning and teaching at Brown
  • Inclusively lead and develop students’ teaching and problem solving
  • Perform class observations

Student Application 

Faculty Interest Form

For more information or questions, please email Dr. Christina Smith at [email protected]

Reimbursement for Problem Solving Fellows who are UTAs (ending 2020-2021)

The Sheridan Center will reimburse the pay of a UTA who successfully completes the course UNIV 1110, up to 10 hrs/wk (per University guidelines) for one term, either concurrently or up to one year following the completion of the course. Reimbursement for fellows will end after the 2020-2021 academic year as we move to a different model. Students will need to be hired by the department they are a UTA for and keep track of hours as would be typical for any UTA in that department. At the end of the term, the Sheridan Center will reimburse the department.

If a UTA is TAing for two courses in one term, the Sheridan Center will reimburse their pay up to 5 hrs/wk for each course (10 hrs/wk total for both courses).

University guidelines on UTAs can be found here.