I recently read Creating Wicked Students : Designing Courses for a Complex World by Paul Hanstedt (Stylus Publishing, 2018). Hanstedt argues, I think correctly, that:
“most of our students are not like us . . . most professors are highly autonomous in their learning, interested in high levels of abstraction, and intrinsically motivated when it comes to their ﬁelds. This is not the case for most of our students. Some of them simply view our classes as a hoop they have to jump through. Others don’t understand what all the fuss is about, why these ideas are so much more important than, say, real life; and others just struggle. They may have come to college without the tools we had or without the preparation to master high levels of thinking and reams of content. Almost all of them have been shaped by a testing culture that puts an emphasis on content mastery over conceptual thinking” (p. 44).
Students therefore need to be “forced to take responsibility for their own learning . . . There is really only one way for people to gain authority: They must assume it, repeatedly and often , . . That sense that one is capable of engaging in complex problem-solving can only come from solving complex problems” (p. 65-66).
These complex problems are unstructured, require the transfer of knowledge from one context to another, and are authentic — making them very different from the academic tasks that students typically encounter.
I found the book thought provoking and decided to try including some wicked problems in my comparative politics course. I’ll put an example in my next post.