Another Take on Wicked and Tame Problems

In the 1970’s two professors of planning from California published ana important paper in which they defined “tame” and “wicked” problems. While each can be challenging, the two are differentiated by the how we approach problem and judge if they have been solved. Technology problems are typically tame problems, while teaching is a wicked one. 

Technology problems are tame because: 

  • we can all easily recognize them as problems (for example, the network doesn’t respond, so we can’t do our work); 
  • we have known methods of restoring it (we know how to isolate malfunctioning parts of the system and there are known processes for fixing them) 
  • we all agree when they are resolved (we get back online). 

Teaching problems are wicked because: 

  • not everyone believes the curriculum is worthy or appropriate for our students; 
  • there is rarely agreement about how to teach anything; 
  • teachers are rarely sure the students have really learned.  

For these reasons, technology professionals and educational professionals define and frame problems differently, use different approaches to solving them, and different interpretations of solutions.