Approaches to Facilitation

Engaging with Complex, Wicked Problems

Wicked problems are social or cultural problems that are difficult, complex or impossible to solve because their causes and impacts are in a state of constant change. They include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Incomplete or contradictory knowledge
  • Large and diverse groups of people, priorities and opinions involved
  • A large economic and social burden associated with addressing these problems
  • The interconnected nature of these problems with other complex and or wicked problems

For example, environmental degradation is linked to poverty, poverty is linked with education, nutrition with poverty, the economy with nutrition, and so on. Although we tend to assign responsibility for these messy problems to government departments and policy makers, or sometimes to civic organisations, they are problems that affect all of us in different ways. Because they are so large and complex, we assume that they cannot be addressed at an individual level. However, another feature of these types of wicked problems is that they require collective and individual actions across scale and time.

Reflexive Pedagogies

The approach adopted by the Fundisa for Change programme includes support for pedagogical approaches used to facilitate courses that enable critical, reflexive engagement with ESD and environmental content, including:

  • active and critical engagement, and
  • deliberative processes

You can read more about these approaches in the three core texts.

Conceptualisation of Existing Fundisa for Change Resourses

The current set of Fundisa for Change resources were developed as illustrative examples of how to support and strengthen the teaching of environmental and ESD content knowledge contained within the CAPS curriculum. The resources focused on articulating core knowledge, teaching practices and assessment practices linked to phase and subject specific topics as a way of demonstrating how to support this form of engagement with teachers. The resources were NOT designed to be comprehensive or uncontested – in fact many authors stressed that the content in their modules was, in fact, highly contested, debated, and more complex that the format of the modules allowed for.

This framing requires partners in the Fundisa for Change network to work with the resources in a reflexive, critical, and adaptive manner.

Working Reflexively with Subject-specific Materials

The Fundisa for Change materials were designed with the understanding that the environmental content included in each of the materials include:

  • Contested knowledge – knowledge that is being challenged by one or more groups of people, or where competing sources of information about (think about climate change, and climate doubters). The materials (and courses) should aim to support teachers in working with contested knowledge.
  • Multiple points of view – in other words, there is no one confirmed and agreed upon point of view, due to cultural differences, geographical differences, gender differences, etc. Think about how different people frame the role of women in society, for example.
  • Contextual complexity – where one area can have people and biodiversity that are impacted in different ways by something (for example, think about how an airport impacts those living near the airport, those who travel to other countries very often, or the biodiversity that is impacted by the airport – each of these experience the airport in different ways, and are affected by it in multiple ways.

  • Situated examples – where learning, examples and connections are made to the places and contexts where teachers (and their students) are located. This includes more than the geographical position of a school, for example. It also includes the community, the political context, the educational structure, etc. There is some overlap between situated examples and contextual complexity – both of these require that we think about the relationship between the content and pedagogy we are teaching and its relevance to the teachers and communities in our courses.
  • Critical engagement – this refers to approaching all the core knowledge, approaches and content in the course critically – through a process of questioning the relevance, accuracy and appropriateness of everything we use to support teacher professional development. Even more, it requires that we support teachers in engaging critically with course content, and to extend this critical engagement to the rest of their teaching, especially as it related to environmental learning and content.

Integrating Supplementary Materials

Part of the intended design of the Fundisa for Change materials is that the materials developed within the network need to be supplemented by a range of other support resources. These could include specific subject-based materials developed by partners, drawing on school textbooks, newspaper articles, educational videos, etc. It is especially important to connect the existing materials to contemporary developments of current affairs within the teachers contexts.

Group Activity 9

Select one of the subject specific materials in your resource pack.

Task 1: Review the core knowledge section of the resource.

  • Identify one key gap or omission in the core knowledge covered.
  • Identify one area of contested knowledge – why is this knowledge contested?
  • Can you identify multiple points of view related to the content described?
  • Please highlight some of the contextual complexity related to this area.