Wicked problems and epistemic fluency

What is the nature of wicked professional problems? What kinds of knowledge and capabilities are entailed in solving them? Some insights are summarised in Peter Goodyear’s recent presentation “Understanding the nature and impact of wicked problems and unpredictable futures on employability” presented at Think Tank Employment vs Employability – What do we owe our graduates in the age of Digital Communications & Liquid Practice?, Charles Sturt University. It draws on Chapter 19 “Teaching and learning for epistemic fluency” from Epistemic fluency book. If you are interested in the practicalities, then you may be interested in reading this chapter. It synthesises and illustrates four kinds of pedagogical approaches that could help prepare students for solving different kinds of complex professional problems. The abstract of the chapter is bellow.

Chapter 19: Teaching and learning for epistemic fluency

In this chapter, we turn towards the practicalities of professional education. We use an examination of four broad approaches to education to assess what each can offer to those professional educators who are looking to teach for epistemic fluency. These educational approaches come from a range of sources – not just from professional education. All these approaches focus on fine-tuning learners’ intelligent sensitivity to the critical features of the external environment. However, each of them aims to help learners make distinct connections between different kinds of knowledge and coordinate distinct ways of knowing and acting within the world. Thus, we argue that each has a part to play in completing the jigsaw of education for epistemic fluency. In shorthand terms, the approaches focus on: a) knowledge integration and cognitive flexibility; b) playing epistemic games; c) designerly work on knowledge building and d) learning to design inquiry.

eBook version of Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education has been published

The eBook version of  Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education has been published at http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-94-007-4369-4. It’s free for those who have access to an institutional SpringerLink account.

Free previews are not yet operational, but you can download the front matter. Sample Chapter 2 is  available  in Springer’s online bookstore (it says 2 pages, but it is actually the whole chapter). 

Reviews, comments and other kinds of feedback are most welcome. Feel free to post them here or email us.


Epistemic fluency in Liberal Arts programs


Our work on epistemic fluency has been nicely taken up by Thomas Carey in his article “Is the Future of Liberal Arts Programs “K-Shaped”?’ published in Inside Higher ED. The article offers a very interesting rethinking of the learning outcomes traditionally associated with Liberal Arts education and possible new ways for (re)designing Liberal Arts majors. Epistemic fluency is at the core of the offered perspective. Few quotes:

We aren’t planning to encourage all our Humanities majors to take a minor in Economics or Business to bolster their value proposition in the workplace – that would only encourage the impression that expertise in particular workplace domains is the key to graduates’ success. Instead, one of the ways we are tackling this challenge is through exploring epistemic fluency in particular workplace knowledge practices rather than particular professional knowledge domains.

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Just as we need to integrate the development of essential learning outcomes into development of student capabilities in their major disciplines, there has to be a strong intersection of all of the K-elements ‒ discipline depth, essential outcome breadth and documented capability in one or more emerging knowledge practices ‒ in order for the desired epistemic fluency to mature.

Read the full article here

Epistemic fluency book – publication date

Epiflu book cover


We have a publication date for the book: October 15th

Springer site




Measuring and fostering interdisciplinarity: social GM vs. natural evolution

Recently, interdisciplinary research has received significant media attention. Governments and universities encourage interdisciplinary research, but various reports show that reality might be not so bright: research proposals that belong to several fields of research have lower funding success; governments are still figuring out how to access quality of interdisciplinary research outputs. What could help overcome these challenges? Our argument is simple: decisions about interdisciplinary research should be informed by a solid understanding of the (inter)disciplines and interdisciplinary work. What is “discipline” and what is “inter”? What does it mean to work in interdisciplinary boundaries? How do new disciplines and research fields emerge? To which extend methods from evolutionary biology could be applicable for “measuring” interdisciplinarity? Below is a copy our comment that we wrote in response to this paper published recently in Nature.

Video from the University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre: http://sydney.edu.au/perkins

Understanding and stimulating interdisciplinary research can benefit from having reliable methods to measure its benefits and the challenges it faces. It is useful to be reminded that assessments of interdisciplinary research proposals often involve extra hurdles (Nature 534, 589–590; 2016) and to see how metrics from evolutionary biology can assist in detecting some anomalies (Nature 534, 684–687; 2016). However, the ‘species’ of research represented in schemes like The 2008 Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification do not evolve naturally. Indeed, such classification schemes are periodically modified to recognize and support new emerging (interdisciplinary) fields of R&D. For example, the 2008 ANZSRC recognizes a number of established and emerging interdisciplinary research fields, such as nanotechnology, interdisciplinary engineering, cognitive science and the learning sciences. Theoretical and methodological diversity and complexity within such interdisciplinary fields can be even higher than across other independently classified research fields. (Note, our examination of the raw data published in Nature (534, 684–687; 2016) shows that research proposal success rates in these four explicitly interdisciplinary fields are higher than in their ‘parent’ fields.) While the notion that disciplines are naturally evolving species can be useful in suggesting new ways of measuring interdisciplinarity, we must not forget that disciplines and classification systems are dynamic social constructs. One might say that research activity is open to ‘genetic modification’, taxonomies are renegotiated and – in subtle ways – taxonomies reshape the evolution of that which they classify. We are not arguing that current interdisciplinary research funding schemes do not need improvement, but if we are to be smart about assessing and fostering interdisciplinary, then we must pay close attention to the distinctly social nature of evolution in research.


Bromham, L., Dinnage, R., & Hua, X. (2016). Interdisciplinary research has consistently lower funding success. [Letter]. Nature, 534(7609), 684-687. doi: 10.1038/nature18315. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v534/n7609/abs/nature18315.html