2 What is “Tackling a Wicked Problem”?

During your first year at Plymouth State University, you and all first year students who transfer in fewer than 24 credits take “Tackling a Wicked Problem” (TWP), the course in which you are currently enrolled. This is a single semester course that introduces you to Plymouth State University’s educational model focused on collaboratively creating projects that reach beyond the walls of the classroom in some way. In other words, TWP represents the first Cluster Learning experience that you will have on campus. What does that mean?

Cluster Learning experiences involve people with different skill sets and perspectives coming together to work collaboratively on a project that reaches beyond the walls of the classroom to try to make a difference in the world. Each section of TWP is focused on a wicked problem, a societal issue that is difficult or impossible to solve. Human trafficking, homelessness, food insecurity, ocean plastics, and climate change are a few examples of the kinds of problems these sections focus on. TWP is a cornerstone course through which you begin to build the repertoire of intellectual skills needed for success in university-level work as well as for success after graduation. These intellectual skills are called Habits of Mind and we will discuss them more fully later in the book.

The project that you and your classmates work on is called The Habits of Mind project and is designed to provide you with the opportunity to practice the Habits of Mind. Your project will not “solve” the wicked problem so that the problem goes away entirely. Instead, you will work collaboratively with other students in your class on one aspect of the problem to try to make a difference in the world. You will regularly reflect on how your work on the various project activities has helped you to develop the Habits of Mind.


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Tackling Wicked Problems by Members of the TWP Community is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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