The Wicked Problem of Teaching Complex Thinking

Over the next few weeks, my group will be examining various solutions and attempt to answer questions related to the wicked problem of “teaching complex thinking”. How do educators effectively teach complex thinking and reasoning in order to prepare students to solve complex problems creatively and then in turn be able to effectively organize their ideas and successfully communicate them to others?

This problem is extremely challenging because it has many facets. Communication and creative problem solving are integral components of complex thinking and how educators successfully teach each of those components within the classroom may require taking a step back from traditional teaching methods and examining new ones. In A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger (2014) explains that “Upon stepping back and reexamining something you’ve been looking at the same for years, you might suddenly feel as if you’re seeing it for the first time” (p. 84).

What are the most effective methods and techniques used to teach complex thinking and what types of classroom activities are essential for teaching students to “think outside of the box” and engage in creative problem solving?
Think outside the box - Independent of the subject matter, “Students should be encouraged to be inquisitive, ask questions, and not believe and accept everything they are told” (Walker, 2003, p. 266). As educators, we have to discover the most effective ways to promote questioning in learners.

What is the most effective way to teach the valuable communication skills needed to bring a learner’s complex and creativity thinking to fruition? You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if they cannot be communicated effectively, those ideas remain in isolation “communication skills must also be mastered for complex thinking to be applied meaningfully” (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition, p. 32).

I believe that a single strategy, technique, and method is not the solution to teaching effective communication and creative problem solving which are essential components of complex thinking – a variety of strategies, techniques, and methods are needed, “…thought develops with practice and evaluation over time using multiple strategies” (Walker, 2003, pg. 266).

As educators we need to explore new teaching methods or modify traditional methods that will allow complex thinking and all its components to flourish in our classroom. This requires educators to seek that “vuja de” moment that Berger describes happens “when you look at something familiar and suddenly see it fresh” (Berger, 2014, p. 84).

Please take a moment to share your thoughts and complete my survey related to teaching complex thinking.


Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

Grabowska, K. (2015, May). [Think of the Box] [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Walker, S. E. (2003). Active Learning Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking.Journal of Athletic Training, 38(3), 263–267.


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