Wicked Problem: Progress Report


Credit to Wikimedia Commons, ineligible for Copyright, Public Domain
Credit to Wikimedia Commons, ineligible for Copyright, Public Domain

The word failure carries a stigma with it. When I was in high school, my teachers and administrators began the “Failure is NOT an Option” campaign. The purpose was to prevent any student from falling through the cracks, and to keep staff accountable for the interventions they were (or weren’t) using. While I support the encouragement of intervention, I fault the furthering of the failure stigma.


In 2013, the NMC Horizon Project Summit Committee called for teachers to tackle what they called “wicked problems” in education. One such problem was to “allow failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success” (p. 1).

For our MAET course, Becky, RosieTaylor, and I attempted to tackle this wicked problem. We agreed with the committee that failure is a powerful learning mode, and hoped that we could ultimately “instill in students the drive to learn, and to help them see the vital role of failure in discovery” (NMC, 2013, p. 2).

In our initial conversations, we decided that inquiry based learning best supports our argument that failure is as powerful a learning mode as success. During our Zoom conversation, we cited accidental discoveries and our own experiences with the Maker Movement in East Lansing. We argue that like Thomas Edison in his quest to see the light, students may need to go through multiple trials of a problem to find a solution.

Thomas Edison Quote, photo credit to BK, Creative Commons License CC-SA-2.0
Thomas Edison Quote, photo credit to BK, Creative Commons License CC-SA-2.0


Inquiry-based learning allows for trial-and-error, just as it allows for collaboration and integration of technology. We know, from Mishra and Koehler (2009) that the convergence of technology, pedagogy and content in our lesson planning will enhance the learning experience for our students (p. 15).

In his book The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning, James Paul Gee cites the importance of persevering in the classroom. Gee (2013) says: “A necessary ingredient for success-more so today than ever before-is learning to sustain interest for the long haul, this requires ‘grit’” (p. 202). Gee (2013) calls grit an invented term that, in teacher-terms might mean practice to persevere past failure (p. 202). We envision grit as the building blocks to an answer; the failure that proceeds success.


While we know that inquiry is not the solution to this wicked problem (as there is no single solution to a wicked problem), we believe that it opens the door to possibilities in the classroom. Two possibilities we’ve discussed are the Flipped Classroom approach, and Standards-Based Reporting (SBR).

While flipping may seem daunting, and is often misunderstood, we believe it is accessible through the window of inquiry. In an inquiry-based learning environment, the teacher encourages group collaboration and acts as a guide, rather than a lecturer. In a flipped approach, a teacher can differentiate lessons by simply allowing students to work at their own pace, providing scaffolding as needed.

When using a flipped classroom model, teachers may question how to assess students who are encouraged to solve problems at their own pace. Urich (2012) found that Standards-Based Reporting “practices empower teachers to meet each student learner at her readiness level by providing the vital information needed to guide differentiated instruction at high levels” (p. 4). Teachers using this method can identify what objectives have been met, regardless of the date of understanding. We found SBR as a viable solution to the challenge of evaluation in the flipped classroom.

For either of these solutions to be implemented, teachers will need professional development that invites staff members to work through problems themselves. We propose that teachers learning through inquiry would help them to teach through inquiry.

Putting our money where our mouth is, our team found tech tools to aid in our collaboration effort on this project. Initially, we utilized Google Docs and Voxer to share our individual ideas. We then met up on Zoom to discuss the approaches we’d researched. We divvied up the roles for researching, writing and creating, and collaborated on Blendspace to keep all of our documents, audio, video and visuals organized.

Check out our Blendspace HERE and see our current progress on our Wicked Problem!

Credit to:

Gee, J. (2013). The Anti-Education ERA: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (First Ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, tooLearning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18.

New Media Consortium (2013). The Horizon Project. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/horizon-project

Urich, L. J.Implementation of standards-based grading at the middle school level Available from ERIC. (1361839324; ED542168). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/136183932 4?accountid=12598

Images from:

Thomas Edison Quote: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/14760038836

Stop Sign: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canada_Stop_sign.svg


5 thoughts on “Wicked Problem: Progress Report

  1. Hi Chelsea,
    I really liked how you organized this post with your subtitles and Blendspace at the end. I specifically think you do a great job explaining Standards Based Grading in your Zoom video. After reading over your solution, I would still question how a teacher would deal with pacing of curriculum when his or her students would be at all different places. I have found that pacing and quantity of required content have both been issues we’ve come across while looking into our challenge of integrating innovation as part of the learning ethic. I think both of our challenges revolve around the question of how much failure or innovation will be allowed and at the sacrifice of how much of teachers’ “content”. Also, great job of tying in our readings with your solution to your wicked problem. Looks like you guys are on the right track!


    1. Dave,
      That is a great point that we didn’t hit on very much. I think the sacrificing content is a tricky piece to this wicked problem and it will give us something to consider going forward! Thanks for your feedback 🙂


  2. Hi Chelsea. It’s good to see your face and hear your voice. Great start on your wicked problem project. I like the problem you chose. I think that this IS a problem in education. Here are my suggestions.

    Problem and Solution: Inquiry Based Learning and Standards Based Reporting are great solutions. It sounds like you have all thought about this. I wonder if you could make the connection between this and allowing failure a little stronger. Why does trial-and-error allow for failure? Ultimately, teachers don’t want their students to fail. Why is this a wicked problem?

    Communication: I think that showing how your group worked together to create a solution is a big part of this project. When, where, how did you meet?

    Multi-Modal: I can’t see your infographic when I go to your Blendspace. I see it in the image at the top of your post. I wonder if it is a sharing issue.

    Theoretical Compass: I see that you are using a flipped classroom as a solution for using inquiry based learning in the classroom. Great idea! Don’t forget to connect this to TPACK as this was a big concept we talked about in class. What complexities does a flipped classroom bring to education?

    It looks like your group is well on your way to a solution to your wicked problem. Good luck and I’m anxious to see everyone next week. Laurie


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