For weeks now I’ve been sharing with you the steps I’ve gone through to identify a wicked problem in my classroom.  It started with a simple session of writing questions, followed by organizing the questions and choosing the most important ones. All of the questions helped to identify the following wicked problem in my classroom: Can I re-imagine my baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners?

Once the problem was identified I started to gather data to help in crafting a solution. The first thing I did was to create a survey to gather feedback from fellow teachers.

Data who took the surveyThen I went a step further and spent time searching for and reading research articles related to the problem. Right away the research findings started to allay some of my concerns.  For example, one concern that I had was whether I could cover all of the required topics if I used inquiry-based learning because it can take up a lot of time. It was discovered in one study that “covering less material in inquiry-based sections had no negative effect on students’ later performance” (Kogan & Laursen, 2013).  A website that I found useful, as I was crafting my solution, was the Right Question Institute as it is a wonderful resource for inquiry-based learning.

The following presentation details the entire process, including the final proposed solution. To get the full experience, with voiceover, I suggest following the link to Haiku Deck. By clicking on the audio icon on the bottom of each slide you will be able to hear my thoughts that are in addition to the information on the slide.

The solution proposed in the presentation was the result of a lot of thinking, making changes, and thinking again. I really wanted to create the most thorough solution I could with the hope that it would reduce the hiccups during implementation.  A lot of work up front tends to reduce the problems later on.

The first action step for the students, the creation of their individual questions, was possibly the most difficult to decide upon. In all of the reading that I did, it was suggested that we create the questions as a group. The reason I chose to go my own direction on this is that I have students with anxiety and it would be too stressful for them to do this part of the activity in a group setting. They need the freedom to create questions without pressure. Once they have created their list of questions they get to look back over them and choose their best questions. The “best” questions would be the ones that apply most directly to the topic and would be more likely to help expand the learning on the topic.

From these initial steps, the focus changes from individual work to collaborative work. The students put their questions together on one Google Keep board and organize them in multiple ways to make sure everyone has a thorough understanding of the depth and breadth of the questions. It’s possible that they will gain a better understanding of the topic simply by moving the questions around into different categories.

The most exciting part of the process is choosing the plan of action and following it. The students will be very likely to use a recipe, or recipes, to find their answers. It is important to clarify that students are taught the correct way to manipulate recipes and make substitutions so it is not outside of their abilities to complete research in this way.

It is critical that the final step of the process is not forgotten.  The information is useless if they do nothing with it, so students must create a presentation and share their findings. This has the potential to increase the knowledge of the entire class and the students also get the chance to show off their final products with pride.

I’m very excited to use this in my classroom. We are starting a new unit next week and the topic is cookies. I think it is the perfect time to put the plan into action.

References – 

Kogan, M. & Laursen, S.L. (2014). Assessing Long-Term Effects of Inquiry-Based Learning: A Case Study from College Mathematics. Innovative Higher Education, 39, 183-199.

Rothstein, D & Santana, L (2011). Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

One thought on “Solving Wicked Problems

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