How to Develop ‘Wicked Students’ to Solve the World’s Most Wicked Problems

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Paul Hanstedt, Director of the Houston H. Harte Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington and Lee University and author of Creating Wicked Students: Designing Courses For a Complex World, joins the podcast to discuss the current expectations students have of our grad programs and how to make sure they are as missionally exciting as the start-up options our prospective students may have right now instead.

... back, reevaluate, not freaked out, and then step forward and try again, and maybe fail again and then try again. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Paul Hans Thatt, professor and director of the Houston H Arts Center for teaching and learning at Washington and the University and author of the book creating wicked students, designing courses for a complex world. Paul,...

...welcome to the show. Thank you. It's nice to be here. Really excited to have you and talk with you today about making sure we're developing the wicked students require to solve the world's most wicked problems. But before we dig in, can you give the listens a little background on both Washington and the university and your role. They're sure well. Washington Lee University and Small Liberal Arts College in Lexington, Virginia. It is well over two hundred years old. It has about two thousand students. I've been here for two and a half years. Prior to that I was at another small liberal large college in Virginia and playing multiple roles teacher, center for teaching and learning, director, scholar, writer, thinker, I don't know, provocatur to administrators, so I shouldn't I shouldn't say that out loud. It is that breath of roles that I think is going to make this conversation in your peal beyond it so helpful. Paul, perhaps to kick off the conversation today, do you...

...believe students still need Grad school to go and get great, exciting jobs? Well, I don't know. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on graduate schools and and the roles that they play or the paths that people take. I do think that if a student comes out of university undergraduate with a narrowly focused degree, there are going to be challenges in front of them. They may find a job out the door that works well for them, but the minute that they're asked to move into a different position or assume a different role, they might have to suddenly reconsider, reconfigure, rethink who they are, how they're relating, what their skills are with skills they need to develop. So you know, multiple paths, multiple places are coming out of multiple places that they might be going into. So it's hard to sort of make a simple answer. I think then, more narrowly focused a person is in terms of they're training, the more that's going to be a requirement for some form of graduate school, particularly if, as so many people do,...

...there's a shift in the in the path that they're taking. And in that world we seem to be seeing a trend toward missional alignment, folks choosing jobs if they believe help solve or attempt to solve, what will later Dignto you, as you've called them, wicked problems. Therefore, have students expectations of their Grad school experienced similarly increased? Students are recognizing that if they're going to go to graduate school, they want, they're looking for some path forward where the complexity of the world is somehow replicated in the education there are experiencing. Oftentimes that doesn't happen as when they're undergraduate. Sometimes it's because the program that they're in doesn't allow it or create space for it. Sometimes it's because the university that their act doesn't have a particularly robust general education program that would bring that kind of complexity into play. But if they're not getting at the undergraduate experience and then it's not surprising that they're going to want it at the graduate...

...experience. Because when they move out of a learning environment as an undergraduate or the graduate student, where the environment is came, where there are clear Antserhos, yes or no, black or white, use this algorithm and come to a definite answer that everybody can agree upon. If they're encountering that kind of education that's tame and fixed and clear, and then they're moving into a world that's very seldom tame or fixed or clear, is it any surprise that they're feeling like somehow something's not working here, they're not getting what they need? Perfect segue to give us just a high level understanding, Paul, of your book and the concept of both wicked problems and the wicked students that you believe are required to solve them. Right. Okay, so I first encountered the concept of wicked problems when I was in Hong Kong and on a full bright helping to lead a curricular change in the entire region from a three year university system to a four year system that included general education. Ended up working with an engineer named Ed Been Co. He was Stanford trained, he taught at...

Carnegie Mellon for a long time. I met him at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and he talked about these problems engineers faced that were complex, that were dynamic, that were shifting. So what you would see in December and what you would see in March would be drastically different. The answers and the solutions that you'd had in December wouldn't necessarily work and oftentimes the answers and solutions that you would have, you know, the previous year for a similar problem wouldn't work as well. So it's a shifting dynamic. There's often times an instantly data, sometimes conflicting data, sometimes conflicting views on how to solve the problem. So it's a dynamic, complex world. Students, if they're going to be prepared for that, need a lot of different skills. One they need to be able to draw from a lot of different areas, because sometimes the answer for a problem in, say, engineering comes from the humanities or a problem in business comes from, say, political science. We...

...need if we're going to be finding solutions two problems that are difficult to solve, we're going to need to be able to draw from a lot of different areas. The other capacity that a student who's wicked, that wicked student is going to need is the ability to fail and to step back, reevaluate, not freak out, and then step forward and try again and maybe fail again and then try again. I've got a colleague in biochemistry, Kyle Friend, who talks about how, if nothing else, he wants his students to know that sixty percent of the time he fails and that that is, yes, right and that that's normal. That's part of the process, that's how you move forward. As an a plus in the real world, I don't write yeah, exactly. So thinking again about sort of undergraduate experiences, if we're bringing that into undergraduate experiences, if students are in programs that are crossing disciplinary boundaries, that have real world tests, and and by that I don't mean, you know, written tests, I mean challenges that given this opportunity to...

...discuss and try and play with it and try and eventually move towards solutions, even if they don't necessarily arrive there, if they don't get it there, then they're going to want it and graduate school because that's what they're going to be facing. I love that overviewer reminds me of a very recent conversation I had with Ray Schroder on the PODCAST, talking about how facebook's repositioning of the metaverse may not just be a get out of PR trouble reality, but needing to tell a better talent acquisition story. Getting people and engineers to facebook ten years ago, let's connect the world. Boy, that's a wicked problem. Today it's can you help us figure out the advertising dollar? Reality? That's less exciting. So maybe probally opposed to you. How can our institutions have that same understanding? How can we better tell compelling stories about what our Grad programs offer and what they are going to more beautifully prepare them for? Well,...

...it's interesting right. So, my background is literature and writing and so I'm a big believer on the son of a Lutheran Ministrm, a big believer in the power of the word, but the word has limitations. So, finally, it's not just about what we say. I mean we live in a world where people are cynical about how words are used. I've got a, you know, a kid looking at colleges right now and when she gets literature she's very quick to dismiss, you know, all these claims that they're making. Finally, it's not about what we say, it's about what we do. So show think about institutional rhetoric. What is actually occurring in your institution in terms of how programs are structured, in terms of how departments exist alongside each other or blending into each other? It's one thing to say, Hey, we're interdisciplinary, you should come here. It's another thing to say, look at these programs that are into disciplinary. We are the only people...

...in Virginia who have a program in business ethics, and it is our ethics professors working with our business professors, or who have a program in marketing and ecosystems, actually create programs offer degrees that break down these boundaries. I mean one thing about our departments and how we view them. That's traditional and it's for the convenience of the faculty and the administration. It makes our lives easier on that end, doesn't mean it serves the world and it doesn't mean it serves as students. All wonderful thoughts, and you've already teased us in this world already. But finally, any next step, thoughts or advice that we haven't talked or touched on already for making sure that our programs are as missionally exciting as the start up options are, perspective students may have right now or be drawn to instead. Yeah, so I'm not actually someone who hates assessment culture. I think there's a value to being able to show that we're doing...

...what we claim we're doing. where I think we, as academics, as departments, as administrators, often go wrong, though, is when we set our goals, are objectives, whatever terminology you want to use for our programs is. We don't include enough idealism in there, and I understand why we don't do that. We're wary. What can I actually prove this is happening? Can I actually measure it? That's the wrong question. Begin with the objectives that you actually care about and then find a way. Maybe you can't measure it perfectly, but how can you move towards the edges of the universe, that move into that that idealism. We have to begin with what we truly care about and then we find a way to get there. If we begin with what we can measure and only what we can measure, our true...

...goals and the true complexity of the world all gets left out. All wonderful, wonderful thoughts. Thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure. Well, I'm on twitter. My handle is at curricular Geek and if you want to know how much of a curriculum Geek I am, I was actually shocked that no one had ever taken the handle before right. So I was like, wow, that's available. Who Do and? And then I can be emailed at my first initial, P, as in Paul, and my last name, Han said, and you need to be sure that you spell that correctly, H and Steedt at wlu Dot Edu. A quick Google search for my name will get my institution and you'll find the email quickly enough that way. And how about the best place to pick up creating wicked students designing courses for a complex world that they'd like to learn more. Well, I tell you what, if you go to Stylus publishing, that's the publisher who printed that book. I'm pretty sure if you put in the...

...code C ws creating wicked students sews twenty, I'm pretty sure they give you a twenty percent discount. At least they used to do that, and I don't think they've caught on that. It's the code still works. I don't know. Give it a dry all right, either way, support the publisher. I love it. Awesome, a different kind of wicked. Yeah, fault, thanks so much for joining us today. By pleasure. Thank you so much. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix educationcoms. Playbook you've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education.

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