Blended learning activity 3: Wicked problem


In many blended subjects, lecturers provide subject content in a variety of formats in the LMS (e.g. short narrated PowerPoint videos, key readings, animated videos, podcasts). While these materials may be engaging, learning remains passive if students are not required to complete activities related to this content. Blended learning activities bridge the gap between the online and face-to-face environments.

What is a wicked problem?

A wicked problem is one where there is no simple, clear answer. These problems are often multi-faceted and responses to them are more a matter of 'better or worse' rather than 'right or wrong'. They usually relate to a social or cultural issue.

Why do this activity?

Encourages critical thinking
Wicked problems require critical evaluation of potential solutions. They discourage students from taking a black and white view of problems to appreciate the complexity of many difficult global and local problems.

Encourages engagement
Wicked problems are an ideal vehicle for debate and discussion. Students may find they have strong opinions on some issues and may enjoy debating these with others.

Encourages self-reflection
Students get to see how their views stack up against the views of others. They have an opportunity to shift their views based on arguments and evidence from others.

How do I do this activity?

Before class
All students are presented with the same wicked problem in LMS, related to some aspect of the online subject matter they have engaged with. They are given a set of materials that explore various aspects of the problem and different points of view. Students engage with the online materials and fill in a table like the one below.

Wicked problem Creative solutions Pros Cons
How could the life-expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians be reduced or eliminated? 1.   
Wicked problem Creative solutions Pros Cons
What could be done in primary school education to reduce violence against women? 1.   
Wicked problem Creative solutions Pros Cons
How could Australia transition to a fully renewable energy economy? 1.   

During F2F class
Students can use their list of points in the tables to inform either a discussion or a debate about the wicked problem. Ideally, this would relate to part of an assessment task in the subject.

Watch a video about this activity