Teaching wicked problems in higher education: Ways of thinking and practising

Velda McCune*, Rebekah Tauritz, Sharon Boyd, Andrew Cross, Peter Higgins, Jenny Scoles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper reports on teachers’ perspectives on preparing students for working with ‘wicked’ problems (Rittel and Webber [1973]. ‘Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning.’ Policy Sciences 4 (2): 155–169.). These problems are complex, lack clear boundaries, and attempts to solve them–generally by bringing together multiple stakeholders with contrasting viewpoints–have unforeseen consequences. Examples include many of the most significant current global challenges. We conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty teachers who focused on wicked problems, and a comparison group of 15. We used the theoretical lenses ‘ways of thinking and practising in the subject area’ (Anderson and Hounsell [2007]. ‘Knowledge Practices: ‘Doing the Subject’ in Undergraduate Courses.’ The Curriculum Journal 18 (4): 463–478.) and ‘figured worlds’ (Holland et al. [1998]. Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.) to frame our analysis. Our findings elaborate four key aspects of learning for wicked problems.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • figured worlds
  • higher education
  • ways of thinking and practising
  • wicked problems


Dive into the research topics of 'Teaching wicked problems in higher education: Ways of thinking and practising'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this