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Honoursmodule: Wicked challenges in health

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Dr. Dasja Pajkrt and Dr. Vincent Geukers

Entry requirements 

  • Second and Third year bachelor students participating in an honours programme.
  • We offer an open course for students of honours programs from all academic disciplines (e.g. health and biology, technical sciences, humanities and art studies), who are interested in helping to enlarge their understanding of wicked problems in health; and perhaps help to solve them.

Recommended prior knowledge


Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • At the end of the course students will appreciate that wicked problems in health are complex and multifactorial challenges, that demand interdisciplinary collaboration at the inter-faculty space.
  • At the end of the course students will have a basic overview of each other’s knowledge domains, skills and vocational expertise, and also of the inherent limitations (level I)  Dublin descriptors: https://www.nvao.net/system/files/pdf/Dublin%20Descriptors.pdf
  • Students have learned to recognize and use 21st century team dynamics and show the ability to cooperate within the student’s team in such manner that all different angles of incidence can fully contribute to the interprofessional analysis of the problem and its potential solution (level II).
  • At the end of the course student teams are able to defend a well-considered viewpoint covering the relevant disciplines. The proof of this viewpoint is a product (i.e. presentation, e-learning module, film, model, et cetera), that is both a representative condensation of the stage of the process they just have finished, as well as a rounded off building block on which a following group can build upon (level II/III).


Wicked problems in health are emerging worldwide. Examples at a population level are: increased incidence of obesity and dementia in an aging population, or hiv and zoonotic pandemic infections with great impact on healthcare, social and economic systems. In general, wicked problems are complicated, multifaceted societal problems that call for integration of different perspectives, knowledge domains and methodologies in the quest for possible solutions. At an organizational and professional level, the common denominator of wicked problems is that they are present at the interspace or overlap of various professions, institutions and/or societal domains.

At the start of the course, student-teams define a wicked problem in health that they will work on during the course. The main goal of the course is to familiarize students from different health, technical and societal backgrounds with interprofessional problem-solving strategies in relation to their wicked problem in health. The course design targets on the active development by students of a shared knowledge basis, interdisciplinary 21st century team skills, and an open collaborative attitude, as these skills, strategies and attitudes are needed for a holistic approach towards tackling wicked problems in their future professional careers. We offer an open course for honors students from all academic disciplines (e.g. health and biology, technical sciences, humanities and art studies), who are interested in helping to enlarge their understanding of wicked problems in health; and perhaps help to solve them.

Teaching methods

  • (Computer)practicum
  •  Fieldwork / excursion
  •  Presentation / symposium
  •  Self-study
  •  Work independently on project/ thesis
  •  Guidance / feedback moment


  • Observed in-class behavior as team player (using standardized rubric): 10%
  • Probation-launch by team (oral and written feedback): 10%
  • Final launch of paper/essay/ product by team (oral and written assessment): 35%
  • Individual reflection essay on team process and personal team role (using standardized rubric): 45%

Note: wicked challenges are team challenges. Therefore, the basis of this course is (interprofessional) team performance. During the course we will emphasize this in every step of the team process, and we will try to maximally facilitate this. However, individual student grades are predominantly based on individual performance (behavior as a team player as observed by the teachers, and the quality and depth of the individual reflection paper). The assessment rubrics the we will use, will be discussed at the start of the course.

Study material

Suggested readings:

  • Tromp, C. Wicked Philosophy. Philosophy of science and vision development for complex problems. Amsterdam University Press, 2018.
  • Fraser, H. Tackling wicked healthcare problems; DOI: https://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/404.aspx
  • Hunter D.J. Leading for Health and Wellbeing: the need for a new paradigm. J.Publ Health 2009;31(2):202-4.  https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdp036
  • Online source: https://www.wickedproblems.com/1_wicked_problems.php

  • Practical material: Pdf’s of Powerpoint presentations will be made available during the course

  • Other (visits and excursions): Self-organized visits to relevant stakeholders in the field (companies, organizations, legislation bodies, NGO’s, etcetera)

Min/max participants

max. 25


The schedule will be available on Datanose 


Dependent on the nationalities of participants in this course communication will be Dutch and English.


Registration is possible for 2nd year (or higher) students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on June 1, 10 am -  June 4, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS (registration is NOT through SIS)

Placement will be at random and students will be informered about their placement in the week of June 21. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register AFTER June 4, so make sure you apply on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes, and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website


Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in September