A Wicked Problem with a Solution

My think tank and I have were tasked with finding a solution to the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking. Over the past few weeks, we have discussed our wicked problem as a group, engaged in what, why, and how questioning, researched numerous online resources, surveyed our community of practice and analyzed the results, expanded our PLNs (personal learning networks), revisited learning theories, and have examined different opinions, ideas, and perspectives to arrive at a solution for effectively teaching complex thinking.

The initial issue we encountered (and actually the most difficult) was having to define complex thinking. Doing a simple Google search for “complex thinking” yielded search results that included critical thinking, complex thinking, and computational thinking used interchangeably. There was not a clear and concise definition that we could use as a starting point so we decided it was necessary to create our own definition of complex thinking. What seemingly was a small piece of a very large problem greatly added to its wickedness. We defined complex thinking as:

"Complex thinking is thinking in which people analyze, evaluate, and synthesis knowledge for application or creation in unique and useful ways within familiar and/or new situations."

While we were struggling with defining complex thinking, we continued our questioning, our research, examining our survey questions and results, and monitoring our PLNs. We decided that another virtual discussion was needed in order to wrap our heads around a solution for this wicked problem.Puzzle Concept Design Plan Team by G. Altmann - https://pixabay.com/en/puzzle-concept-design-plan-team-535509

After many weeks of engaging, collaborating and sharing, we finally arrived at a solution to teaching complex thinking that involves the formation of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) within the teaching community. You can read about our solution in greater detail within our solution page on our website.

It has been a pleasure being a part of and working with my Think Tank group! The problem of teaching complex thinking reared its wickedness multiple times throughout the project but in the end, we have tamed the wicked problem. View our website to read about how we defined “complex thinking”, a background on learning theories as it relates to our wicked problem, our thoughts and the opinions of others (survey results, PLNs, etc.), and finally our solution. We also included links to our survey results and infographics on our References page  – just in case we’ve piqued your interest because after all, we all love data and information! Feedback is welcomed!


Altmann, G. (2014, November). [Puzzle Concept Design Plan Team] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/puzzle-concept-design-plan-team-535509/


This problem is a Wicked one!

During our Think Tank virtual meeting, we looked for commonalities among all of the brainstorming questions posted by each group member to arrive at our three defining questions that we will use as a focal point for the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking. The three defining questions are as follows:

  1. Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking?
  2. Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking?
  3. Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking?

Question Mark by Gerd Altmann - https://pixabay.com/en/question-mark-punctuation-marks-358178/

Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking? had us all in agreement after noticing that simply doing a Google search or a MSU library search for “complex thinking” brought up results that used complex thinking, critical thinking, and computational thinking terms interchangeably. Do all of these terms mean the same thing or does each term have a different meaning? We thought this to be an appropriate question to try and answer since it’s the basis or our wicked problem.

Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking? Each of us viewed creativity as part of the complex teaching (and learning) process even thought we interpreted it slightly differently but in the end arrived at the same conclusion that it does in fact play a role in complex thinking. We thought it would be important to find out why.

Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking? We were in agreement on it being necessary to use a combination of both traditional and nontraditional teaching methods to teach complex thinking. With further research, we hope to determine which teaching methods are most effective and the role a classroom environment plays in teaching complex thinking.

I created a Teaching Complex Thinking Infographic using Canva that summarizes the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking and a wicked problem it is!


Altmann, G. (2014, May). [Question Mark] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/question-mark-punctuation-marks-358178/