Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey

Co-Laboring: Ensuring All Voices are Heard

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.
Co-Laboring: Ensuring All Voices are Heard
For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization. In considering the practice “of co-laboring” – communication is key. In order to work well together, members must have the requisite skills to listen well. Last week the column focused on this need and the role that the collaborative norm of paraphrasing plays in ensuring that messages are heard. In addition to ensuring that individuals are heard, it is important for an organization to ensure a balance of participation, to ensure that there are means by which all voices can be heard.

The work of Adaptive Schools supported this practice in Smith County Schools* (Kentucky) through offering protocols and practices which invited (in structured ways) the engaged participation of organization group members. Structures shared in Adaptive Schools such as Say Something or Assumptions Wall* provided structures which engaged all members in participation. The high structure (e.g. everyone reflects before the discussion, groups members thoughtfully choose what they want to share, only two people at a time are talking) of Assumptions Wall allow a group facilitator to ensure participation of every group member when discussion is focused around topics which might be challenging or difficult. Of course, challenging and difficult work is often at the heart of teachers’ collaborative conversations. Having means to brooch such conversations gives rise to a culture in which they can happen without defensiveness or bitterness.
Ensuring voices are heard is also critical in terms of interacting with stakeholder groups. In the case of Smith County Schools, this need was particularly apparent when a new re-districting plan was developed. Meetings were held across the district over a period of months in order for parents and other community members to share their feedback about proposed plans. Meetings were facilitated by individuals who had experienced Cognitive CoachingSM and Adaptive Schools and specific practices (facilitator moves, intentional use of the norms of collaboration) were incorporated. The application of learning from these experiences proved powerful for community members as well as Smith County Schools employees. Retired Chief Academic Officer, Elizabeth
Griffin reflected on the benefits that occurred as a result of this decision:
At the end of the day if you look at redistricting, something in the past that had been terribly emotional, divisive, I’m telling you, it was the best situation you can have . . . And, here’s the other part – it was because of us going through that process that way that we actually got good information from the constituents that helped come up with a better plan. . . . (Elizabeth Griffin, Individual Interview, September 4, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 108)

Griffin’s comment eludes to the fact that the redistricting meetings went smoothly, a contrast from previous experiences. She also points to the notion that in hearing the different voices, better ideas emerged. Indeed, hearing and implementing the thoughts of constituents yielded a better plan than the one initially envisioned by district employees.

Comments from two individuals who helped facilitate these meetings suggest why the meetings were better. Rachel Zince and Margaret Turner, instructional coaches, described how they listened to parent feedback about the plan, paraphrased ideas, and recorded ideas so that everyone’s thinking could be reviewed and synthesized. This process of making everyone’s thinking public was important in terms of meeting the affective needs of constituents (many expressed their thanks and appreciation for having their voices heard), but perhaps more importantly this sharing of ideas led to better solutions for a challenge the school district was facing – re-districting students.

To “co-labor,” is to commit to a shared process, it is to be interdependent and this process, though powerful, is challenging. In using structures that balance participation, the Smith County Schools have implemented norms which embed a diversity of thought. Ultimately, the outcome of such sharing is the development of better ideas than would have been created by individuals or even smaller groups. Structures and beliefs outlines within the work of Adaptive Schools were powerful in making this process of listening and sharing possible.

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Co-Laboring: Listening Well

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.

Co-Laboring: Listening Well

For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization.
Within the Smith County School* district (located in Kentucky), the skill of listening well was developed first through Cognitive CoachingSM and later through Adaptive Schools. Participation in Cognitive CoachingSM became part of the initiation process for new administrators and instructional coaches within the district. As the district became more familiar with the work of Thinking Collaborative and eventually engaged deeply in the work of Adaptive Schools, greater awareness of the norms of collaboration emerged. The collaborative norm of paraphrasing focuses on the capacity of an individual to listen well. As noted on the Norms of Collaborative poster (found at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/norms-collaboration-toolkit/) , “efficient paraphrase[ing] assists the members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions” (“Norms of Collaboration – Annotated”).
In Smith County, paraphrasing became a powerful tool because of the intentional decision to teach others about it and to practice it in the context of professional learning as well as authentic contexts. Sylvia Miller, a literacy coach remembered how her former principal Cora Ellis (who at the time of the interview had become an administrator at the district level) supported team leaders within her school by teaching them about paraphrasing:
One of the things we did with them was practice paraphrasing. It made such a huge difference to their meetings. They would come back to comment and say how it worked and they would say that their role was like that of a facilitator. (Sylvia Miller, Individual Interview, July 18, 2013 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 173)

In these words, is the sense that teacher-leaders were able to facilitate conversations with their colleagues that were authentic; conversation that allowed members of the group to have a voice.

In a similar vein, Rachel Zince and Margaret Turner, both literacy coaches, expressed how paraphrasing was an important tool used in a series of meetings to get parent feedback about a re-districting plan.

When we did the redistricting and we were asked to help facilitate these groups of community members who came from all different areas in our community, some of whom were somewhat heightened emotionally and others who just wanted information or just wanted to give input. To be able to mediate that, we used some very specific Adaptive Schools strategies and philosophies – and to me it was a great growth experience to have participated in that because you got to see it with non-teachers. And you got to see how it really diffused some of the emotional aspect of it that needed to be taken out . . . because really we were genuinely involved in hearing input and. . . sometimes emotion can cloud that … (Rachel Zince, Individual Interview, September 1, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 108)

Rachel Zince emphasized the value of using paraphrasing as a tool to really hear individuals who were in a heightened emotional state. Margaret Turner focused on the value in terms of making individuals have assurance that their voices were heard. She remembered:

At the end of each session all of the parents [were] saying, “Thank you so much for listening to me,” they just want somebody to hear them. I think [that it] is going to diffuse a lot of the drama and negativity that can be associated with redistricting because the community sees it in a more positive light because they feel like they are being listened to. We’re paraphrasing what they are saying, we are capturing it, validating it . . . . (Margaret Turner, Individual Interview, June 2013, from Wheeler, 2016, p. 109)

In order for the members of an organization or a group to work together, it is imperative that group members work to really listen to one another. The work of Adaptive Schools advocates this practice through the norm of paraphrasing. Furthermore, the practice of paraphrasing is embedded explicitly into many of the strategies to support the work of groups. In Wheeler’s (2016) study of the Smith County schools, it is notable that individuals who were in situations where paraphrasing was used intentionally reported that they felt heard; they felt that their thoughts and ideas were valued and ultimately understood. This sense of being heard and the expectation of listening well to others is one key to the practice of being collaborative.

Thinking Collaborative. (2017). “Norms of collaboration toolkit.” Retrieved from:

http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/norms-collaboration-toolkit/

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Developing Co-Laborers

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.

Adaptive Schools: Developing Co-Laborers

For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization.

The meaning of the word collaborate means “with or together” and labor. One trend in education over past decades has been to move away from teaching as an individual or isolated act to one that is collaborative. In essence, there is an underlying belief that the learning act is best done cooperatively. Put another way, the development of ideas as a group is more powerful than pedagogies focusing exclusively on a single individual or even a group of individuals working independently alongside one another.

Although seemingly simple, positive and appropriate collaboration is not something that just happens. Banking on the success of serendipitous collaboration is not enough to ensure that teachers and administrators are able to effectively work together to support significant student learning and growth. Since collaboration is a skill that must be developed and it doesn’t tend to occur naturally, it is necessary to consider opportunities for building the collaborative capacity of teachers and administrators. The Adaptive Schools seminar and its accompanying framework provide such an opportunity.

Wheeler’s (2016) research explored the role of Adaptive Schools in supporting development of collaboration in the Smith County Schools* (Kentucky).

Retired Chief Academic Officer of Smith County Schools , Elizabeth Griffin, reflected about the culture of the district when she entered:
I came walking in and it was one of my first days on the job and I remember at lunch time being absolutely mortified that these people weren’t talking to each other. It became apparent they had never worked together. And when I worked a little bit further with the group, I had teachers tell me, “We don’t think we should share because other schools might take it and get better test scores.” (Elizabeth Griffin, Interview, September 4, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 82)

In short, Griffin discovered that the schools were focused almost exclusively on their school having the highest scores on the state test. Lacking was a shared sense of purpose and how to achieve it. Over the course of the next few years, the district worked toward becoming more collaborative not only within schools, but across the district as well. In essence, professional collaboration in order to support student learning became part of the district’s vision and mission.

When the district began its journey with Adaptive Schools, this vision for collaboration existed, but the problem of putting the belief in action continued to pose a challenge. The work of Adaptive Schools provided a roadmap and directions for working toward a collaborative organization. Griffin, reflecting on her experience with Adaptive Schools, said this:

I think the big thing was it changed – it changed me. It made me better; it made me a lot better- as an administrator, as a leader. I felt like I was better able to do the two jobs that I had in Smith County because of that training. I think it helped me really make something that was a vision reality. I call it putting wheels on the bus. . . So, it – it changed me; it changed my practice and I feel like impacted people, some more than others, but it helped develop, create this culture that has now become more normal about everybody learning and growing together, that’s what I think has happened. And that’s a great thing to know – that those isolated walls – that how it used to be – has changed so much. (Elizabeth Griffin, Individual Interview, September 4, 2016).

Through the month of April, this column will suggest ways in which Adaptive Schools may be used to build the capacity of educators to “co-labor” – work together to support and ensure student learning.

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Self-Transforming Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week four will focus on self-transforming knowers.

A small number of adults, about 9 to 10% of the U.S. population (Kegan & Lahey, 2009), are developing a way of knowing beyond self-authoring and into self-transforming. Self-transforming knowers are able to examine issues from other points of view (“How can I understand this more deeply?”). As both feedback givers and feedback receivers, self-transforming knowers see interconnection as a strength and opportunity (“How can we learn from each other and grow together?”). They appreciate receiving feedback as a chance to grow and develop a bigger version of themselves. They welcome others into their boundaries.

This week when you recognize a self-transforming knower, find their growing edge. They need other people to feel more complete and yet may need guidance in resolving tensions and contradictions around change. Gently support management of the implicit frustrations and tensions of transformation as self-transforming growers study others’ standards, ideologies, and beliefs.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Drago-Severson & Blum-Stefano – WordPress.com

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Self-Authoring Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week three will focus on self-authoring knowers.

Unlike socializing knowers, self-authoring knowers no longer look outside themselves for validation. They have strong ideologies and values and hold an internal capacity to prioritize their own perspectives about their feelings and their relationships (“How does this fit with my goals and my vision? and Am I living and working up to my full potential?”). They can weigh other people’s expectations in light of their own and can objectively reflect on both. When receiving feedback, they decide for themselves what they are doing well and what they want to improve. Conflict is viewed as a normal part of collaboration. And yet, self-authoring knowers may need help with bringing together divergent perspectives and may struggle taking in ideas that are diametrically opposed to their own.

This week when you recognize a self-authoring knower, find their growing edge. Encourage them to explore new and different values and ideologies. A self-authoring knower feels support when they share a relationship with someone they respect. Offer them opportunities to voice their own opinions, offer suggestions and critiques, and formulate their own goals.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Drago-Severson & Blum-Stefano – WordPress.com

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Socializing Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week two will focus on socializing knowers.

While socializing knowers have developed greater capacities for abstract thinking and relating than instrumental knowers, socializing knowers are other-focused and make meaning by taking in feedback from others. They base their value and their performance on what others think of them. (“If that’s what you think of me, then that’s what I think of me.”). Socializing knowers are concerned with maintaining relationships and may need support developing their own ideas (“What do you want me to do or know?”).

This week when you recognize a socializing knower, find their growing edge. Invite them to express their own beliefs and then paraphrase their deep structure. Since socializing knowers orient strongly to the human qualities of a relationship (e.g. kindness, care), it is important to acknowledge and attend to these qualities when giving feedback as socializing knowers need approval to feel complete. Help them focus on their practice, not on themselves. Feedback perceived as negative can be difficult for socializing knowers as they view conflict as a threat to their very core. Support them by modeling and role-playing cognitive conflict.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Instrumental Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be calibrated to how the receiver can best hear it, learn from it, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week one will focus on instrumental knowers.

Instrumental knowers tend to see things in black and white (“Just tell me what I need to do.”) and may need to develop the capacity for reflection. They orient to rules and generally understand their experiences in concrete, dualistic terms. Instrumental knowers may have difficulty taking others’ perspectives in relation to a question or debate about instructional practice. When receiving feedback, they want to know what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they need to do next.

This week when you recognize an instrumental knower, encourage flexibility by extending their current thinking beyond “right” solutions for teaching and leading. Try to find the growing edge: being in another’s shoes, being able to think abstractly. Giving detailed, concrete examples and specific models that the instrumental knower can emulate is feedback for growth.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Drago-Severson & Blum-Stefano – WordPress.com

Efficacy

This week we will continue consideration of questions that impact thinking and are positively constructed, (or as Dr. Adams calls them, Learner Questions) with an emphasis on the State of Mind or Energy Source efficacy. A key facet of efficacy is an internal locus of control. Many teachers and other professionals today have been discouraged by environmental factors such as mandates, political tensions, changing demographics, and budget cuts, leaving them feeling helpless and sometimes hopeless.

An effective coach or engaged participant will invite the professional or the group to explore areas where s/he (they) has control. We always have control of our lives, even if it is only in the arena of our attitudes and responses to external issues. Some examples of questions in the area of efficacy are:

• How have you dealt with similar situations in the past?
• What might be some things you do have control of?
• What are some resources you have in yourself that will serve you in responding to this situation?

Questions from the Q Storming
 What have I seen in my practice and in my life that leads me to believe this is possible?
 What specific strengths or capacities might we enhance to reach our goal?
 What would success look like when we achieve it?
 What fears might we need to set aside?
 What might be some positive self-talk we need to have?

As you listen this week for low efficacy, draw on your consciousness in asking questions that promote self-directedness. At the end of the week, take a few moments to reflect on the impact of your coaching and your group interactions.

Dr. Adams concluded the keynote with this quote from Albert Einstein. We leave you with this thought:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask. For if I knew the proper questions, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.”
— Albert Einstein

Interdependence

Interdependence
As you consider interdependence, notice key features of this state of mind. What words come to mind? Some might be reciprocity, mutuality, collaboration, shared values, common goals, interaction, etc. As you consider strategies for this state of mind, one is to invite collaboration. Some examples of this are:

• How might others support you in this work?
• What are some common goals you share?
• When you work best together, what is happening?

Questions from the Q Storming:

 What might our legacy be to accomplish this goal?
 What might be some collaborative needs in order to accomplish this goal?
 How might we best handle conflict during this process?
 What collective boundaries will support us in reaching our goal?
 What are the gifts we have to share with the world?

This week, look for opportunities to enhance collaboration. Be attentive to things that might be blocking collaboration. As a mediator of thinking, consider ways your work might invite collaboration.

Consciousness

Continuing this week is an exploration of powerful question strategies. The coach or the engaged participant begins by considering what State of Mind or Energy Source might be productive to mediate. If consciousness is chosen, a simple and reasonable place to start is to Invite Metacognition. This supports the coachee or the group by causing a review of internal thought processes. It enhances awareness and gives a mental picture of the mind’s inner workings, informing action. Some examples of this strategy are:

• How did you decide to…?
• What do you know about yourself in situations like this?
• How do your past experiences influence your thinking in this time?

Questions from the Q Storming

 What fears might (I) (we) need to set aside?
 What story do (we) (I) want to tell?
 Am I willing to do the work on myself to increase my own capacity to be in a thoughtful world?
 What would our identity need to be to accomplish this goal?

Use this week as an opportunity to explore your own consciousness regarding the coaching decisions you are making or the meetings in which you are a participant. Take a few minutes to reflect on your decisions related to support functions, questions, States of Mind, Energy Sources, etc. Also be deliberate in asking questions that invite metacognition both for individuals and groups. Notice the effect of your questions.

February 6, 2017

The 2013 Sustaining the Journey was about Cognitive Shift and the States of Mind/Energy Sources. We have revisited it here, but with some additional thoughts and ideas. This week in Denver at the 5th Annual Thinking Collaborative Symposium, Dr. Marilee Adams delivered a keynote entitled “With Our Questions We Make The World,” based upon her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Questions that have positive presuppositions in them are framed as Learner Questions while those that are negatively skewed are called Judger Questions. For example, a Judger Question might be, “Why am I such a failure?” A Learner Question would be “What can I learn?” Participants experimented with asking and responding to each type of question. A common theme was how the judger questions shut down thinking and caused other strong physiological responses.

Questions that are asked in Thinking Collaborative work have elements of invitation. They have positive presuppositions, tentative language, and plural forms. They are asked with approachability and they are non dichotomous or open ended to spur thinking.

The Five States of Mind (Cognitive Coachingsm) or Energy Sources (Adaptive Schools) are: Flexibility, Consciousness, Interdependence, Craftsmanship, and Efficacy.

Cognitive shift occurs when a person has a breakthrough in his/her thinking; it is a moment of incredible insight. It is the goal of the coach to invite cognitive shift. Artfully asked questions around the Energy Sources can also cause a group to shift in thinking and can be used to intervene when conflict occurs.

During the keynote participants engaged in an activity known as Q Storming, or a brainstorming of questions. Dr. Adams defined Q Storming this way: “Q-Storming is a collaborative, creative thinking, and problem-solving method/process that catalyzes the discovery of new questions, directions, and possibilities. It can be the difference that makes the difference, often creating breakthroughs in areas such as strategic planning, problem-solving, and innovation.”

Some of those questions have been added to each week’s conversation around questions. Powerful questions were constructed around values, beliefs, identity, and mental models that people hold. They reinforce the States Of Mind and the Energy Sources.

Flexibility

This week we consider the State of Mind or Energy Source of flexibility. One critical strategy is inviting a shift in perceptual position. This is a powerful strategy because it causes a person to move from his/her natural egocentricity to a new view of allocentricity (other centered). It is a powerful invitation to view the world differently. Some examples of how this strategy might sound are:

• What might be some other viewpoints on this issue?
• What were some of your perspectives on this when you were a classroom teacher?
• As you consider those you work with, what needs might be most prevalent for them?

Questions from the Q Storming

 What systems thinking might support our influence?
 What perspectives have I not considered yet?
 What people/resources might open my eyes to new perspectives?

This week, look for opportunities to use this strategy to invite flexibility in others. Also consider how it might serve you to ask these questions of yourself.

Effective Relationship and Effective Accomplishment as a Future Curriculum

Effective relationships are paramount to success in the workplace and in one’s personal life. However, schools do little systematically to help students know how to build and maintain effective relationships. Here are the topics Prensky (see January 9 Sustaining the Journey) suggests be included in a relationship curriculum.

Communication and Collaboration
One-to-one
In teams
In a family
In a community
At work
Online
Relationship-building
Empathy
Ethics
Politics
Citizenship
Negotiation
Conflict Resolution

The fourth pillar of his proposed curriculum is Effective Accomplishment. This is directly connected to effective relationships, but it adds value by having students work on real problems that they can solve collectively based on the environment they live in. Even young children seek meaningful work where their efficacy is built because they see they can make a difference and have control of their environments. Project-based learning is one way to move toward this kind of curriculum. Kids could leave school, Prensky offers, with not just a transcript of grades, but with a resume of accomplishments.

As you reflect on your own education, how did it support you in having effective relationships and feeling a sense of accomplishment? How do your schools do that today? What might we rethink our work so that students would graduate with skill and knowledge of relationship building? What are some ways we could truly give kids the opportunities to have meaningful accomplishments? What is considering this kind of curriculum worth to you?

Source: Prensky, Marc. “The world needs a new curriculum.” Educational Technology. May-June 2014. http://marcprensky.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Prensky-5-The-World_Needs_a_New_Curriculum.pdf

Effective Action as a Future Curriculum

A second course curriculum proposed by Prensky (see January 9 Sustaining the Journey) is Effective Action. It includes the following possible areas of exploration.

Habits of Highly Effective People
Mindset
Resilience
Grit
Entrepreneurship
Innovation
Improvisation
Breaking Barriers
Project Management

Prensky says we expect kids to be able to act in these ways, but we rarely teach them or hold them accountable for these actions. Curriculum for teaching these already exist, but are used only sparsely in schools. He proposes that children be immersed in them with an expectation they practice them every day.

How might these become outcomes of our teaching rather than just things we hope for in our children? As the old song says, “You have to be carefully taught.” Where are these being taught in your schools? What might you consider letting go of to emphasize these actions instead?

Source: Prensky, Marc. “The world needs a new curriculum.” Educational Technology. May-June 2014. http://marcprensky.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Prensky-5-The-World_Needs_a_New_Curriculum.pdf

Effective Thinking as a Future Curriculum

The first of four K-13 courses proposed by Prensky (see January 9 Sustaining the Journey) is Effective Thinking. He proposes the following to be the content that would be systemically taught.

Critical Thinking
Mathematical Thinking
Scientific Thinking
Creative Thinking
Problem-Solving
Inquiry Skills
Argument Skills
Design Thinking
Judgment
Aesthetics
Habits of Mind
Self-knowledge of One’s Own Passions and Strengths

His thesis is that these are only taught sporadically in some schools and this would become more systematic and systemic. Graduates would leave schools with consciousness, craftsmanship and efficacy as thinkers. Content would be a means to teach thinking rather than an end in and of itself. He proposes there would be some general skills for all and some individual differentiation based on student needs and interests.

Imagine how your own education might have been different if this was the curriculum. We believe the work of Habits of Mind (http://habitsofmind.org) is far ahead of its time in promoting this work. Schools adopting the work of Costa and Kallick have demonstrated dramatic results.

So apply your own critical thinking skills to this proposal. What are its merits? What might be some deficits? How might kids become different and/or more successful if they spent 13 years learning to think? Imagine…

Source: Prensky, Marc. “The world needs a new curriculum.” Educational Technology. May-June 2014. http://marcprensky.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Prensky-5-The-World_Needs_a_New_Curriculum.pdf

An Adaptive Curriculum

Marc Prensky provides a provocative challenge to schools to rethink our traditional mental models of curriculum which are structured around math, language arts, science, and social studies. His thinking addresses the need to be adaptive for a changing environment as well as examining students as whole persons who are thinking beings. He states,

The far more fundamental reform needed to make education effective for the kids of tomorrow is not HOW we teach what we currently do, but, rather, to changing WHAT we teach –to reforming the world’s core curriculum. Because the world’s context has changed, for our kids to thrive in the future our goals for education must change with it. We can neither adapt to the new context, nor reach our goals, with the curriculum we now have. The entire world today is in need–desperate need–of a wholly new education “core” and set of “basics.”

Prensky makes a strong case for how we are tinkering with the system rather than truly reshaping it for a new future with new learners. He proposes an alternative which we will examine during January. While we are not advocating a position, we are offering food for thought.

The new organization Prensky offers would be to organize kindergarten through secondary curriculum around four key subjects:

Effective Thinking
Effective Action
Effective Relationships
Effective Accomplishment

He suggests these are the skills that all people need in order to be productive and successful in spite of their location, work, or interests. These would be the courses for 13 years as Pensky proposes. Some of the old math, language arts, science and social studies would still be taught as part of these courses, but not all of what we currently do.

What is your first reaction to Prensky’s proposal? How does it fit for the students you serve and the world in which they live? What makes you uncomfortable? What makes sense to you at a gut level?

Source: Prensky, Marc. “The world needs a new curriculum.” Educational Technology. May-June 2014. http://marcprensky.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Prensky-5-The-World_Needs_a_New_Curriculum.pdf