A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.
Reinventing education is a wicked problem. But what does that really mean? A wicked problem is one that really does not have a solution but more of a trial and error process. It is also something that has many facets, many different pressure points. For instance in education we have policy makers at several levels of government, we have textbook companies providing what they think is the material educators need. At the local level there are parents who offer their opinion on what should be done, as well local level administration creating guidelines for their schools. In essences there are many groups coming from many directions to provide a course of action for a wicked problem such as this one. When tackling a wicked problem such as this, the stakeholders need to share understanding about the problem and share commitment to the possible solutions. Shared understanding means that the stakeholders understand each other’s positions well enough to have intelligent dialogue about the different interpretations of the problem, and to exercise collective intelligence about how to solve it.
Keeping in mind the changes in technology and the tools that became available along the way, one might expect the classroom to look and feel a bit different. But does it? Students are still being told what to learn and how to learn it. Teachers are still in charge of the delivery of the information and how they want to deliver it. The cafeteria schedule and the bus schedule still run the school day. And instruction is still delivered in isolated blocks of time. US education has not made any significant restructuring even though the workforce needs have change dramatically.
The workforce looks significantly different than the last 50 years and technology advancements have caused many of the changes. Assembly lines do not need many people, just one to press the button. Cashiers at grocery stores are disappearing; you can scan and pay by yourself. But when you look into a US school for the most part you see rows of desks with an adult in the front of the room delivering instruction and the students sitting in their desks filling out worksheets. Why no change – because this is a wicked problem, solutions are hard to implement when there are so many social forces resistant to change or wanting the solution to be theirs. It is going to take a total restructuring to change the US educational system, jobs might be lost, new jobs will be invented.
This brings me to my point, can we really change education by adding something and taking something else away or do we need to restructure, redesign, what we do? I say we need to do things differently. We need to rethink the fundamental education principles.
How do you identify school success?
How would you describe an educated person?
What does a successful person need to be able to do in tomorrow’s world?