Teaching Critical Thinking via the “Wicked Problem” of Food Insecurity

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Food insecurity, Students, Higher education, Critical thinking

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University Libraries


This article describes a project to engage sociology students in real-world research designed to foster critical thinking about food security. Faculty-librarian collaboration was an essential component. An open-ended questionnaire was administered to three classes at the end of the semester. Assessed were students’ experiences gathering data and applying abstract concepts and theories to the case study. Students characterized their skill development, identified missing project components, and suggested improvements. These responses were assessed via a rubric to document three types of thinking: dualistic thinking, the belief that the problem has a right and wrong answer; multiplistic thinking, which recognizes uncertainty and multiple viewpoints to the problem; and systemic thinking, which understands the complexity of the problem and how interrelated factors cause it. Results show that the project helped students identify the complex processes and relationships that contribute to food insecurity.

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