Solving a Wicked Problem by Reinventing Teaching

A Wicked Problem is a major problem in schools with no clean answer.  It is one of those big problems that everyone notices, but no one sees an easy fix or thinks we, in American schools, are in too far to dig ourselves out.  Koehler and Mishra (2008) explain that “Solutions to wicked problems are often difficult to realize (or maybe even recognize) because of complex interdependencies among a large number of contextually bound variables” (p.10). In addition, since everything is constantly changing in education (students’ background, student and teacher growth, technology, district changes, etc.), solutions to Wicked Problems need to also be constantly evolving.  Therefore, one solution cannot be an end-all-be-all fix. A solutions is simply the best option at the time. That’s what makes these problems so wicked, right?!

The 2013 New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project Summit Communique identified five major Wicked Problems for schools.  My group and I have decided to tackle the problem “Rethink what it means to teach, and reinvent everything about teaching.”   The NMC explains that education needs to be more hands on and experimental.  My group members and I agree that teaching needs to incorporate inquiry-based lessons instead of lecture.  The teacher should act as a the facilitator to take these hands on experiences and discovery to the next level, but should not be the only source of information. Students who engage in discovery-based learning will develop critical thinking skills and carry the content learned into their real lives. In order to create schools with inquiry-based education, schools need to adopt national standards and a balanced school schedule.

We believe that national standards need to be more broad and rely less on facts.  This will give teachers more flexibility to create inquiry-based lessons based off real-life issues. When standards are less based on facts, teachers will not feel like they have to lecture everyday.  Through discovery, students will learn and remember these facts more than they would by memorizing the lecture or cramming before a test.

Finally, we believe that the best way to adjust these standards and adopt a inquiry-based curriculum is to change the school year.  We believe that adopting a balanced school year will allow for more time for discovery, collaboration, and project-based learning. In a world where technology is so readily available, students can use technology to collaborate and work through problems.  Therefore, the calendar could even feature slightly shorter time in school to allow for more discussion and discovery online at home.

After feedback from our MAET peers, we added in potential restraints or resistance schools could face when implementing these changes to reinvent teaching to our policy paper.  We also discussed how TPACK supports this vision.

Overall, we know that schools and teaching need to change.  We also know that students all learn in different ways.  Inquiry-based learning, an elongated year with less summer slide, and a national curriculum with less facts and more real-life connections will allow students to learn and work through problems at his or her own pace.  From my groups discussion and research, we believe our vision is the best option for schools at this time to solve the Wicked Problem of reinventing learning.

To learn more about our solution to this Wicked Problem, watch a video about our thought processes, and read our paper calling for a change in policy, please visit our Blendspace.




Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.),Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York: Routledge.

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