It’s week 3 and CEP 812 just got wicked.  Our think tank is tackling the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking…piece of cake, right?

Complex thinking, “the ability to understand complexity” (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015), is one of many wicked problems facing the current education system.  While complex thinking is also referred to by Tharp and Entz (2003) as a component of challenging students to apply learning through activities, it is still not unanimously evident how complex thinking is defined.  What qualifies as complex? Is it based solely on creativity and problem solving?  Does it have to be cross disciplinary?  Do traditional teaching approaches support complex thinking?  Does student centered learning support complex thinking?  Does technology have to be involved?  What role does communication play?

To begin to get to the root of the problem and understand how other educators perceive complex thinking,  the following questions were sent via a Survey Monkey survey to my coworkers.  To maintain integrity of the sample, faculty and administrators serving grades 9-12 at an independent school in Western New York, the link will be provided after the sample set has responded and their responses are evaluated on Wednesday, September 21. Questions 1-12 were given a Likert scale with options of Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree.  Question 12 is an open ended response.

  1. Students learn complex thinking from traditional teaching methods.
  2. Students learn complex thinking in student centered classrooms.
  3. Lecture promotes complex thinking.
  4. Project based learning promotes complex thinking.
  5. Technology integration promotes complex thinking.
  6. Collaboration promotes complex thinking.
  7. Complex thinking can be objectively measured.
  8. Cross-disciplinary connections are essential for complex thinking to occur.
  9. Faculty use student centered learning approaches to emphasize complex thinking in the classroom.
  10. Administrators encourage the use of student centered approaches in the teaching of complex thinking.
  11. Parents are informed about student centered learning.
  12. Students respond positively to student centered learning.
  13. Complex thinking is…

Each member of the think tank is collecting similar data and with more insight on how professionals in the field understand complex thinking, we will be better able to address the working components of teaching complex thinking in a meaningful way.  Let’s do this.


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Tharp, R., & Entz, S. (2003). From High Chair to High School: Research-Based Principles for Teaching Complex Thinking. YC Young Children,58(5), 38-44. Retrieved from


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