Understanding the nature and impact of wicked problems and unpredictable futures on work and practice

Cover Challenging Future Practice PossibilitiesThis is one more recent chapter that extends our work on epistemic fluency: Goodyear, P., & Markauskaite, L. (2019). The impact on practice of wicked problems and unpredictable futures. In J. Higgs, S. Cork, & D. Horsfall (Eds.), Challenging future practice possibilities (pp. 41-52). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Brill Sense.  You may have access to a digital copy of this chapter via your institutional subscription. But if you don’t have access and you are interested, please email us. We will be happy to send you a copy of the pre-print (for the sole purpose of your private use of course). The extracts below should give you an idea of what this chapter is about. Note, they are from the pre-print. Check accuracy in the published version if you will quote.

Overview

“Education faces a conundrum. On the one hand, imagined futures are becoming more diverse, fluid and contested. On the other, knowledge and learning are widely believed to be key to survival, success and sustainability. < . . . > There is a broad consensus that it cannot stay the same (Collins, 2017). But in many countries, there is deep disquiet about relations between current education and the futures of those it is meant to serve. Indeed, one sometimes senses a paralysis, brought about by conflicting ideologies as much as by the intrinsic difficulties of making sense of an uncertain, complex world.”

< . . . >

“In this chapter, we aim to offer something more positive. We suggest that there are tools that people can learn to use to deal with complex ‘wicked’ problems. These tools can be used by young and old, but are especially relevant to those who are invested in a problematic situation – those with ‘skin in the game’. These ways of dealing with wicked problems are deeply social. They do not start from an assumption that the best problem solvers are lone wolves: creative, entrepreneurial market-disruptors, motivated by personal profit. Quite the reverse. In our view, tools for working on wicked problems are embodiments of shared ‘moral know-how’, sharpened for the work of collaborative and co-operative future-making.

The rapid and accelerating pace of technological development has had an odd effect on ways we imagine the future. We see it as unknowable and full of risks for which we should prepare, without really knowing what to prepare for: as if the explosion of technological possibilities creates a blinding glare. It need not be so. Technological profusion should cause us to ask a different kind of question: not ‘what will the future world be like, and require of us?’ but ‘what kind of future world do we want to make?’. The genre changes from prediction to design; from reading tea leaves to taking action.”

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