The Wicked Problem of Climate Change (Fall 2024)

Banner of climate change posters with white text overlay that reads: Wicked Problem of Climate Change.

What is it?

Graduate students at the University of Waterloo are engaged in research that is advancing our understanding of - and developing solutions to - some of society’s most challenging problems. As part of the University’s strategic plans to develop talent for a complex world and focus on interdisciplinary scholarship, this initiative sees a team of PhD candidates come together to re-design, co-develop, and co-teach a course related to contemporary Wicked Problems. The course will be offered to upper-year undergraduate students from across the University to create a community of scholars, sharing different perspectives from the PhD candidate instructors and the learners in the classroom.

The first pilot course was offered in winter 2023, with the development of the course taking place in fall 2022, and addressed the Wicked Problems of Climate Change. You can look at the process, the developed undergraduate course, and its end-of-year symposium on the Wicked Problems of Climate Change page

The second pilot course, offered in spring 2024, will focus on the Wicked Problem of Precarity: Living in an Uncertain World. This topic brings together research on poverty, homelessness, housing scarcity, and food insecurity, all of which are contributing to a future defined by precarity. 

Now, in its third iteration, we are once again returning to the Wicked Problem of Climate Change, and are seeking PhD candidates to re-develop and co-teach this exciting interdisciplinary course.

The intention of the Wicked Problem course is as follows:

  • Each PhD candidate brings to the course disciplinary expertise;
  • The teaching team receives mentorship and support with regard to course conception, design and integration by those with disciplinary and pedagogical expertise via the Centre for Teaching Excellence as part of a Teaching Innovation Incubator project;
  • Collectively, the course creates an interdisciplinary construct that fosters learning and integration of knowledge, methods and ways of knowing that could not be achieved within a single disciplinary approach.

Why participate?

We know there are brilliant doctoral researchers across the University who are immersed in studying climate change from interdisciplinary perspectives, addressing some of the above-mentioned broader themes.  Many of these researchers may also welcome the opportunity to be part of an interdisciplinary teaching team that will provide undergraduate students with a classroom experience where the academic content spans disciplinary boundaries.

Following the pilot offering of the Wicked Problems of Climate Change, some of the course instructors had this to say about the process, and their time: 

“Co-teaching this course was an extremely positive experience for me. Outside of the classroom, having a teaching team gave me the chance to run ideas by other instructors, get second opinions on my teaching style and content, and to get support when needed. In the classroom, co-teaching with another instructor made the classes feel more interesting and engaging from my perspective, and it added more diversity to the ideas that were discussed. Additionally, co-teaching allowed for a much better work-life balance, since we each took on specific tasks rather than having to handle everything ourselves.”

“This was the most in-depth teaching training I've received and gave me so many new insights into teaching (in addition to learning about the scholarship of teaching and learning). Overall, the training program was a really valuable, fulfilling, and worthwhile professional experience.”

“This experience really improved my sense of community and connection with the University of Waterloo. Joining this teaching team gave me the opportunity to meet graduate students from every faculty and staff members from the Centre for Teaching Excellence, and to work closely with them for the duration of the training program and course. Ultimately, through this experience I was able to make connections with other graduate students and UW community members, and learn more about UW initiatives, services, and departments.”

What will happen for the next pilot course?

The teaching team will spend the spring 2024 term designing the course by working with each other and with mentors in the Teaching Innovation Incubator and Centre for Teaching Excellence. In the fall 2024 term, the instructor team will deliver the course to upper-year undergraduate students. 

In both the spring and fall terms, graduate students will receive financial support acknowledging their important contributions to the University’s teaching mission.

Who should apply

  • You are a full-time PhD candidate who will be an active student in the spring 2024 and fall 2024 academic terms

  • You have approval from your academic supervisor(s) to participate in this course creation/delivery

  • You are conducting research on climate change in the following areas:

    • policy 

    • environmental 

    • scientific 

    • technological 

    • health

    • media representation 

The intention is to select three doctoral student researchers, with diverse representation from across the university.

How to apply

Step 1: Confirm your eligibility ('who should apply'), including seeking approval for your involvement from your supervisor.

Step 2: Complete the online Interdisciplinary Wicked Problem course application form and upload your curriculum vitae (CV)

Important dates

  • Application deadline: Monday, March 4 – complete the application in full by this date.
  • Notification deadline: Monday, March 11 – notifications will be received by all applicants by this date.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee of Associate Deans, Graduate Studies, as well as an expert in climate change. Selection of student instructors will occur in early March. 

Questions may be directed to one of the following Associate Deans, Graduate Studies: Anna Esselment or Bertrand Guenin.