Defining and assessing risk analysis: The key to strategic iteration in real-world problem solving

Spencer E. Carlson, Leesha V. Maliakal, Daniel G. Rees Lewis, Jamie Gorson, Elizabeth M. Gerber, Matthew W. Easterday

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article

4 Scopus citations


Across domains from science to civics, experts plan to solve real-world problems iteratively. Despite the importance of strategic iteration, we lack precise understandings of effective iterative planning and novice challenges, making it difficult to assess formatively and therefore to teach. We conducted design-based research to understand iterative planning and design assessment tools in a full-time 6-week program where undergraduate teams worked on social impact design problems. We found that iterative planning requires a process of risk analysis: detecting risks in the problem space, prioritizing those risks, and setting goals to reduce them. Novices struggled with each step of risk analysis, so they did not plan iterations strategically. We designed assessment tools that surface students’ thinking about risk analysis and support instructors to notice common challenges. We contribute detailed understandings of iterative planning and novice challenges as well as tools that can be adapted to assess real-world problem solving across domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-359
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of International Conference of the Learning Sciences, ICLS
Issue number2018-June
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Event13th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, ICLS 2018: Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age: Making the Learning Sciences Count - London, United Kingdom
Duration: Jun 23 2018Jun 27 2018



  • Assessment
  • Design learning
  • Iteration
  • Planning
  • Problem solving
  • Risk analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education

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