Educating for an unknown future: putting the jigsaw puzzle together

On November 16th 2018, Marion Brady wrote an article in the Washington Post which paints a powerful picture of the urgent need for a different way of teaching to prepare learners for dealing with wicked problems. Brady gives an example of how something as mundane as buying socks may contribute to global warming, destruction of infrastructure, decline of healthcare and even an increase in mortality. Understanding such complex and uncertain problems, he emphasises, requires the ability to generate new knowledge rather than the ability to simply recall existing, often second-hand, information. He also explains that it is essential that learners learn how to relate information. Instead of focusing on individual pieces of the puzzle learners require an understanding of how all the pieces fit together. Perhaps this may sound obvious, however, formal education often still compartmentalises knowledge even though messy real world problems cannot be compartmentalised. Brady writes: “Preparing to put a jigsaw puzzle together, we study the picture on the lid of the box. It’s the grasp of the big picture—the whole—that helps us make sense of the individual pieces” (Brady, 2018).

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