RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


71 Wicked problems in Geography: researching and teaching complexity and uncertainty
Affiliation Higher Education Research Group
Convenor(s) David Simm (Bath Spa University, UK)
Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Chair(s) David Simm (Bath Spa University, UK)
Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract Wicked problems are encountered in all disciplines; in Geography they are typically human-environment issues characterized by high degrees of scientific uncertainty and lack of consensus, for which there are currently no correct or optimal solutions, but which require planners and politicians to make decisions (Brown et al., 2010). Wicked problems include global environmental and social changes such as human-induced climate change, global poverty, food insecurity, biofuels, urban planning, global terrorism, and planning for a sustainable future. By their very nature they are seen as “messy” real world problems that “defy resolution, requires thinkers who can transcend disciplinary boundaries, work collaboratively, and handle complexity and obstacles” (Cantor et al., 2015). This presents both opportunities and challenges to staff and students undertaking teaching and/or research.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Applying pedagogies to wicked problems in Geography
David Simm (Bath Spa University, UK)
Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
This paper will introduce the idea of 'wicked' or 'messy' problems, and review the latest ideas on how it can be integrated into curricula and facilitated into our teaching. We will discuss how the approach fits in with the recent trend towards inter-disciplinary collaboration between university departments, and the stimulation of imaginations, creativity and critical thinking. We will briefly critique the opportunities and challenges of teaching 'wicked' or 'messy' problems, considering issues such as: facilitating of students working in small, multi- or trans-disciplinary teams; using multiple methodologies in teaching; using effective learning and teaching approaches; and the practicalities of translating research into effective teaching. Finally, we ask whether communities of practice will naturally evolve, and what role geographers have to play in such developments.
Opportunities, challenges and practicalities of the 'wicked problems' paradigm for International Baccalaureate geography: a case study of global curriculum-making
Simon Oakes (International Baccalaureate Organization, The Hague)
Kelvin Williams (International Baccalaureate Organization, The Hague)
Roland Kupers (University of Oxford, UK)
With first teaching in 2017, the new IB Diploma Programme (DP) geography course has evolved from one designed a decade ago whose core architecture had been informed primarily by Millennium Development Goals and global networks and interactions. Concept-based learning is at the heart of DP courses; the four key concepts for the new geography course are place, process, power and possibility, along with scale and spatial interaction as integrating concepts. Alongside these concepts, the curriculum development team have holistically considered a thematic focus on '21st Century challenges'. Vying for attention here are nexus thinking, the circular economy and wicked problems. In particular, the latter of these has proved to be especially resonant with the course's geographical concepts. This paper highlights the importance of wicked problems for helping to provide geography with a distinctive identity within the broad suite of humanities and social sciences offered by the DP in the individuals and societies subject group. Wicked problems offer students scope for independent inquiry and research, inter-disciplinary thinking, and international-mindedness. However, a curriculum built around wicked problems and complexity provides challenges for teaching and assessment, given the varying experience and expertise of teacher-practitioners. Learners face the challenge of a wide spectrum of experiences, linguistic and cultural backgrounds, whilst not all of them may be equally open-minded to different possibilities and open-ended questions and answers. One possible solution for focusing on uncertainty and complexity using the concept framework is to ensure more thinking time built into curriculum delivery
BWK-BCN: Participatory art practice and explorations of local responses to the wicked problem of climate change
Alexia Mellor (Newcastle University, UK)
Art and geography have much to learn from one another. This is particularly true when it comes to creating critical reflective space to examine the relevance of wicked problems within local contexts. Wicked problems may present themselves globally, but they are ultimately spatially experienced at the local level. This paper presents findings of a recent participatory art project, BWK-BCN, conducted as part of my practice-led PhD research in the historical port town of Berwick-upon-Tweed in northeastern Northumberland. Using the fictional premise of budget airlines ceasing flights to Spain due to environmental pressures, the project brings members of the Berwick community together to create a device to temporarily change the climate in a small area of Berwick's beach to mirror the climate of Barcelona. In linking these two seemingly disparate places, the project creates opportunities to critically examine cultural responses to climate change, climate's relationship to place, and emotional experiences of climate. The participatory methodologies serve to explore critical, place-based problem-solving and knowledge exchange, while providing space to creatively imagine site-specific responses to the wicked problem of climate change. The paper will discuss how, in turn, these responses formed within the micro-context of Berwick might shed light on global solutions, and how an arts practice-led methodology might provide ways of rethinking our relationships and approaches to wicked problems.
Discussion – Opportunities and challenges of researching and teaching wicked problems in Geography
Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire, UK)
David Simm (Bath Spa University, UK)