Brainstorming session: Creating Wicked Students

Hi, everyone!

So, getting back to the original purpose of this blog–let’s talk about some of the riches of the world of education & how we can use them in academic libraries. And why do we imagine that divide, anyway? Education and libraries are so closely, passionately, powerfully tied together anyway that I believe that we should be keeping an eye on each other’s thoughts and discoveries all the time.

Recently I participated in a professional book club through my university’s Center for Faculty Development. The sessions were focused on Paul Hanstedt’s book Creating Wicked Students: Designing Courses for a Complex World. The book is really worth reading(!!), but you can get a good sense of the major themes from a presentation on Creating Wicked Students provided by AAC&U.

The book focuses on the value of & methods for incorporating what Hanstedt calls “wicked problems” into college courses. What is a wicked problem, you ask? Wicked problems are typically the complicated, meaningful, messy problems with no perfect solution that we see in the real world. They’re the problems that we see in real jobs every day. To imagine that in the field of LIS…a wicked problem might be asking Master’s students in LIS to plan materials & instruction for an online, sophomore-level physics course where they’d been asked to serve as the course’s official librarian. They get a few hints from the fictitious professor ahead of time: for example, at this institution, about 10% of the students speak English as a second (or more!) language, so the librarian will need to take this into account. Also, a number of students have expressed interest (but not a deep knowledge…yet) of astrophysics early in the semester, so astrophysics is definitely a subtopic to include. This in and of itself would count as a “wicked problem.” The LIS students could be challenged even further by, for example, learning that the fictitious professor would miss a week due to unexpected surgery & that the course librarian would be asked to “cover” for that week on the spur of the moment.

Here’s where I am at the moment. I can imagine plenty of wicked problems for LIS. No problem there–my LIFE is wicked LIS problems! 🙂 I can also come up with ways to encourage faculty and students to consider taking relatively “wicked” approaches to assignments. Lean toward the complex, the real, the meaningful, and the messy.

What I’m working on right now, though, is how to incorporate wicked problems into information literacy instruction. I can come up with some on the small scale. For example, I can ask my music business students to explore public reactions to an artist across all kinds of media, and through all kinds of voices–social media, sales stats, and yes, scholarly venues. That’s wicked, and we can sample it during a 75-minute session. What else can we do? What options do we as librarians have for introducing wicked problems and wicked approaches to research & information literacy during the types of interactions we have with students every day?

Let’s talk! I’d like to hear your ideas & start bouncing options off each other.


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