Divergent Paths

There are many ways to model for students how to explore wicked problems, and how to apply the strategies of critical thinking so we avoid the various cognitive traps for which we’re all too susceptible.

For your own planning focus on the purpose of Phase II and the questions“what are you trying to get your students to learn…what are they thinking about?  (They’ll learn what they think about.)

Below are the seven distinctly different ways to tackle student learning midway through Phase II.


My students ended last week with issue maps of sufficient quality to hit ABL this week.  It’s time to look for knowledge around their key questions.  What they discovered – for example – is that questions like “how do religious teachings alter our perception of freedom of expression) requires that they know something about religious teachings!)  Our foray into information will also give me an opportunity to discuss information literacy and to reinforce the role of critical thinking in the research process.  After we update our issue maps (after we see new meaning in our questions, or make our questions more complex) we’ll likely head back to the library (this time in smaller autonomous teams) to look at specific disciplinary perspectives bearing on our problem.


My class has broken up into 4 smaller groups exploring the effects of hurricanes, 2 groups around Puerto Rico and 2 around the recent Carolina events. So they now have 4 separate issue maps, they have completed some research, and have some evidence. On Tuesday, the 4 groups will combine to make 2 groups (1 from Carolina and from 1 PR), develop a new guiding question around understanding the differences between the 2 events and then work to combine the 2 issue maps into a single map. On Thursday they will have time for library work. The following week the two groups will present and debate their understandings around the similarities/differences of the 2 events.


Last week, each class was divided into four groups (one for each discipline) of five with two students from each group going to the Library on Friday and working with Matt and Cecilia Dalzell on research around the wicked problem each class chose. A shout-out to my 10 am PC Rosalie Pierani who taught her Library attendees how to do research while Matt looked on approvingly.  This week, the groups reunite on Monday to share information, give specific assignments (with guidance from the PC and me) to each member, and decide how they best want to continue. Is their goal to simply present or is it to teach? On Wednesday or Friday (some groups may need more Library time and that will be Wednesday), each group will produce an Issue Map and, if we have enough time, we’ll make connections between the disciplines with the goal of creating a multi-media workshop.


We are in the middle of investigating the various disciplinary lenses

as we explore our class question regarding how and why some countries offer universal higher education – the class generated idea.

Through this process we model for the next phase as they are now beginning to narrow down topics for their own messy problems.


We explored the complexity of identity through the perspectives of the disciplines while applying the 6 types of context from Battersby and Bailin. Matt from ABL used our topic to show the class how to use database resources. Students made connections between the disciplines and there was lively and engaging discussion about how their different majors are connected to seemingly irrelevant disciplines.This week we will further explore identity through the SPERM model. Depending on the results of this week the plan will proceed to discussion about creation of individual guiding questions OR another week modeling another topic.


Pre-issue Map: I teach things a little backwards. I don’t like to model first. Instead, I wanted to have their ideas come from their own world before giving them the issue map model.

So we looked at assumptions and perspectives that we’ve never questioned. I gave each group a card with a word on it that has an “obvious” value or emotional response (like “boredom”, “failure”, “guilt”, “anxiety”, “breaking up” “super smart students”, etc ) and each group explored an opposite point of view of that given perspective. Then they shared their new perspective to the class. This caused lively discussion and strong emotional responses. Now they’re ready to look at the issue map idea. I won’t do the nodes that we all know yet. We will create nodes from their own life first.


Coming in to this past week, students had read Rittel & Webber; we discussed its keys points in groups then class-wide; combined its message with that of B&B from the previous week.  This helped inform the group issue mapping 2 days of the week. Students did a lot of activities at the board, on their feet.  We reviewed e-portfolio one last time, letters to advisors. Watched and discussed the video 30,000 days – a great segue into individual Messy Problems, which will be the hub of this week’s workshop. This will include ‘reverse engineering via The MacArthur Foundation winners and considering what his/her Guiding Question/Messy Problems could have been and, time permitting, research at ABL. If not the latter – that will be next week’s focus.


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