Wicked Problem Research

Rethink what it means to teach, and reinvent everything about teaching.

“All of our notions about teaching were developed for eras in which the oral tradition was the main way that knowledge was transmitted from one generation to the next. Libraries existed, but only the very lucky few had access to the kinds of resources that virtually all of us take for granted today. When most any practical question can be answered in microseconds via the network, and in most cases, with a variety of perspectives and viewpoints also included —

what is the role of the venerated teacher? What are the defining attributes of the teachers we need to help the next generations build on (or fix) the work we did? What can and should be the key competencies of a teacher? We know we need education overall to be more experiential and more hands – on. We need to be emphasizing good choices, and ethical decisions. Learning must be global, and more based in the realities of the world as it is. It should be more authentic. What we do not know is how to prepare people to be successful with these very different kinds of skills, and that makes this a wicked problem. ” (NMC) My partners Jon, Alexis and I are rethinking the role of the venerated teacher.  The NMC report states, “The role of educator continues to change due to vast resources accessible to students.” (NMC, p. 8)  Students can get at whatever information they need whenever and wherever they need it.  It also goes on to say, “The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices. The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student’s unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction.” (NMC, p. 10)  As technology has changed so dramatically, we have a teaching force that is “caught in the middle”.  They are caught in the middle of learning these new technologies and completely changing the way that they teach.  This definitely sets the scene for a wicked problem, indeed!

Jon researched best teaching practices.  Below is a summary of his findings:

Jon-best teaching practices (gradual release of learning EX; stepping

away while monitoring, routines well established.


Munro, C. R. (2005). “Best practices” in teaching and learning: Challenging current paradigms and redefining their role in education. College Quarterly, 8(3), 8. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/61861733?accountid=12598



           This article raises the question does the current practices of teaching connect learners with their learning outcomes in this always changing landscape, how do we address the vast amount of diverse learners when the standard curriculum practices might not be meeting the of the learners, and how do we deal with these different circumstances, constraints, and limitations?  With a shift in learning contexts it is believed that answers will start to emerge.  It is suggested that new paradigms that prioritize strategies that help educators identify, respond, and reflect on student learning and engagement would help teachers make more well informed decisions.   Seeing and responding to the needs is deeply connected to analysis, and with that the distance of gaps and the interventions needed to bridge become clearer.  Assessing these help create a learner profile where performance standards can be started, with these the teacher can start to deliver higher caliber classes with content that connects to various learners.  This will excite and engage the learner.  Feedback is another important component; here students can voice their understanding or lack thereof.  With this teachers can adapt and change lessons, but this feedback should not be something that happens at the end of a project or lesson, it needs to be done throughout so that the changes being made affect the learner then, not later.  This opens up in-class dialog where students start to engage in reflective process, helping them grow as learners.  Teachers must also go through reflective process in order to critically assess their effectiveness.  This should not be a solitary reflection, but one that is shared with colleagues so that an educational community is created and nurtured.   Doing these will result in improved best practices and help develop and sustain teaching excellence.

Lee, C., & Picanco, K. E. (2013). Accommodating diversity by analyzing practices of teaching (ADAPT). Teacher Education and Special Education, 36(2), 132-144. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1361829158?accountid=1259


This article’s goal is to recognize, research, and reflect on various successful teaching methods that improve student achievement and performance.  Movements like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) press teachers to look into research based teaching methods, but there is little support and assistance implemented between practices to help get others started. After researching 4 levels of learning were established, acquisition, proficiency, maintenance, and generalization.  When a student works through these they start at having the new topic introduced to them, after mastery of the basics students enter a discovery and repeat phase, after that student starts to retain knowledge, then finishes with being able to apply knowledge to other various situations.  These phases help teachers gauge where students are at in their learning, and by analyzing these practices it helps modify and find better suited practices and teaching methods.  These methods are strategically used as ‘tools’ to improve the fundamental focus of student learning.  With these practices teachers can design lessons that cater and guide different learning types and levels, peer to peer assistance, give students multiple avenues to express what they have learned, and provide students with both visual and verbal examples and explanations.  With this students are less likely to fall behind.  With all this teachers can start to be provided with useful frameworks to guide their instructional practices, which is the current method AD supports.


full txt here at http://tes.sagepub.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/content/36/2/132.full.pdf+html


Mahiri, J. (2004). At last: Researching teaching practices: “talking the talk” versus “walking the walk”. Research in the Teaching of English, 38(4), 467-471. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62071833?accountid=12598



           In this article Jabari Mahiri informs and reflects on a curricular implementation created by her and some other colleagues, this lead to Mahiri discovering that connections between understanding and implementing educational ideas can be better acted upon through research meshing with actions. Mahiri’s research work, which is based on Gee’s ideas, focused on increases in student achievement through reflections, multi-modal approaches, student accountability, and goal setting.  Improvements and interventions were successful, but challenges were face daily.  Mahiri connected the new curriculum’s success to the teacher also being the designer and researcher.  This experience granted a better understanding that both teachers and researchers had to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” in order to successfully implement dramatic positive change to student learning.  Along with successes, both Mahiri and students did frequent reflections in order to keep constant and make the changes happen when they were needed.  Because of this relationships were made with students which gave insight to combining research and teaching in order to become a more successful in changing education.


full txt here at http://www.jstor.org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/stable/pdfplus/40171691.pdf

I researched  classroom climate, connections, relationships and collaborative strategies (both

between student to teacher, s to s, and teacher to teacher)



full txt at http://www.ifets.info/journals/8_3/15.pdf

Interesting article on teacher knowledge sharing (more for PD?)

Klem, A. M., and J. P. Connell. “Relationships Matter: Linking Teacher Support To Student Engagement and Achievement.” Journal of School Health 74.7 (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Summary:  This article breaks down some key components that contribute to students’ academic success.  They include:

  • high standards for academic learning and conduct

  • meaningful and engaging pedagogy and curriculum

  • personalized learning environments

  • clear sense of structure, behavioral engagement

  • student engagement is a “robust indicator” in school with improved performance (regardless of socioeconomic status).

In this study, elementary students reporting high levels of engagement were 44% more likely to do well and 23% less likely to do poorly on performance and attendance index.  Middle schoolers were 75% more likely to do well on achievement and attendance index.

Conclusion: Either teacher support or a focus on learning and high expectations leads to improved levels of engagement or achievement; however the combination of the two far exceeds the outcomes associated with either one individually.

Phillipio, K. (2012, November 01). “You’re Trying to Know Me”: Students from Nondominant Groups Respond to Teacher Personalism – Springer.”You’re Trying to Know Me”: Students from Nondominant Groups Respond to Teacher Personalism – Springer. doi: DOI

full txt at http://www.ifets.info/journals/8_3/15.pdf

Interesting article on teacher knowledge sharing (more for PD?)

Summary:  This study was conducted in an urban area and showed that teacher personalism has the potential to deliver support but also to bring about tension.  Bill Gates (2005)  asserted that “Student-teacher relationships support academic support.”

Scholars have found that teacher support boosted academic performance and that students who received teacher support and had a good relationship with their teachers outperformed their peers in GPA, attendance and persistence to graduation.  Those that encountered teacher support with poor achievement before improved their achievement levels as a result of their relationship with a teacher.  Teacher support also found to moderate negative effect of neighborhood violence on academic achievement.  Nieto p. 32 goes on to say engage in relationships with teachers.  They were:

*Culturally responsive pedagogy

*Teacher caring

*Relational trust in schools

There were some students who did not respond well to teacher support but it was found that they had major distrust in school as an institution, etc.


Hoffman, L.L., Hutchinson, C.J., Reiss, E. (2009). On improving school climate: Reducing reliance on rewards and punishment. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 5(1).

“Haynes, Emmons & Ben-Avie (1997) suggested 15 key components of a healthy, supportive school climate: achievement motivation, collaborative decision making, equity and fairness, general school climate, order and discipline, parent involvement, school-community relations, staff dedication to student learning, staff expectations, leadership, school building, sharing of resources, caring and sensitivity, student interpersonal relations, student-teacher relations. For these 15 supportive components to exist all members (administrators, teachers, parents, staff and students) of the school must possess a set of cooperative values that calls for shared power, a set of social and emotional skills that facilitate healthy interpersonal interactions, and self-regulation and conflict resolution skills to handle disagreements. These social competence skills are rarely taught in teacher preparation programs. Whether a teacher possesses these skills or not would be determined by how they were parented, past relationships, and media diet.”  This study is one that determines the efficacy of teaching teachers emotional intelligence and thereby teaching their students emotional intelligence through the Conscious Discipline model.

   The rewards/punishment extrinsic motivation can cause other problems and should be reduced. “There is a growing body of scientifically-based research supporting the strong impact that enhanced social and emotional behaviors can have on success in school. This research is so strong that a 17-state partnership created a document entitled “Findings from the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative.”Basically this study shows that teaching teachers about emotional intelligence directly impacts their students and the need to eliminate rewards/punishments and move to a classroom where mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn.

parents, staff and students) of the school must possess a set of cooperative values that calls for shared power, a set of social and emotional skills that facilitate healthy interpersonal interactions,


Sanchez Fowler, Laura T., et al. “The Association between Externalizing Behavior Problems, Teacher-Student Relationship Quality, and Academic Performance in Young Urban Learners.” Behavioral Disorders 33.3 (2008): 167-83. ProQuest. Web. 6 July 2013.

This study showed school bonding as attachment, commitment, involvement and belief.  Within attachment two subcategories emerged:  positive school experiences and student/teacher relationships.  More authoritative and controlling teachers had lower quality relationships with aggressive students.  Positive teacher/student relationships affected minority youth more significantly than Caucasian students.


Alexis researched intrinsic motivation.


Barlow, T. (2008). Web 2.0: Creating a classroom without walls. Teaching Science, 54(1), 46-48. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/207242059?accountid=12598




Tim Barlow, a science teacher, reflects on his journey of using technology to increase the intrinsic motivation of his students.  He discusses why his first blog failed and how he changed his next blog to be successful.  After realizing the success of his blog and the interest level in science of his students Tim Barlow then began creating podcasts for his students.  This article is a great ready for any teachers interested in incorporating technology in their classrooms.  It is written from the perspective of somebody in the classroom – and it shows his failures along with his successes.


Key points about the article:


– needs to be relevant to students

– engaging

– give students choices

– “students are engaged in the content because it is relevant, current, and real world”

– “…by embracing technological tools, such as weblogs and podcasts, that are used routinely by your digital native students I have been able to reach them beyond the usual confines of a classroom.”

– “by giving students a choice about what they wanted to research they held ownership of their learning and this motivated them to achieve”

– “Students made their own learning decisions and extended themselves as a result”

– “After all, intrinsic motivation has been long recognised by educational psychologists as being associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment by students”


Ediger, M. (2001). Reading: Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62283770?accountid=12598




This article compares what extrinsic and intrinsic motivation look like in a reading classroom.  It does not state that one form is better than another.  It provides ten examples of intrinsic motivation strategies and ten examples of extrinsic motivation strategies.  It states that most teachers will use a combination of both.  One thing to recognize that embedded within all of the intrinsic strategies was the power of choice for the students.  There was choice not only in the learning but also in the assessment.


Bartholomew, B. (2007). Why we can’t always get what we want. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(8), 593-598. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/218520642?accountid=12598




This article by Barbara Bartholomew explains what intrinsic motivation is, how intrinsic motivation can be achieved, and why it is lacking in many classrooms.  Barbara Bartholomew recognizes the lack of training and education on motivation for both pre-service teachers and current teachers.  All teachers in the classroom recognize the importance of motivation but often do not know to properly and effectively motivate their students – they are never taught to do so.  She also shows the impact of standardized tests on motivation, specifically the motivation on the teachers to be risk takers in their classrooms.  She provides eight rules to creating a classroom where intrinsic motivation rules.  This article is insightful, eye opening, and empowering.  It uses real world examples to supplement the content.

As we approach this wicked problem, we seem to becoming up with more questions than when we started.  This is a far-reaching problem but I feel that we are getting to the heart of the matter with our perspective subject areas.  We have started an informative Voicethread and are well on our way to addressing this wicked problem!  We have discussed doing some candid, short interviews with real people and what they identify as something that helped them to bond with a teacher.  Our plan to rethink teaching starts with the teacher herself in the belief that all students can and will learn.


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S.,Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

“IPhone 5 Docks, Oblong Pizzas, and Craigslist Thumbnails.” Lifehacker. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2013.


One thought on “Wicked Problem Research

  1. Pingback: Chemical Massacre In Syria: A Former UN Disarmament Commissioner’s View – Social Europe Journal « Dr Alf's Blog

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