Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do You Spend Enough Time on the "Why"?

As part of my own professional development and to further my understanding of how massive, open, online courses work, I signed up for the Deeper Learning MOOC offered by a series of experts from High Tech High and a variety of other organizations noted for their work in deeper learning.  And while I have not done every task associated with the course, I have made it a priority to watch the archives of the panel discussions each week after my little ones head off to bed.  The discussions are engrossing and invigorating, and as I have felt like my motor has needed a bit of a jump start this week, I was particularly excited about Monday night's topic of 'Assessing Deeper Learning'.

Right now at our school, we are investigating how we can 'dig deeper' into deeper learning in each of our classrooms in our school.  We are being deliberate in our steps to lay the ground work for digging into deeper learning through:
  • creating a set of attributes that we want for our graduates (September)
  • refining those attributes with the help of our students, parents and community (October-March)
  • examining the 'whys' of why we need to have students learn deeply in our classes (Jan/Feb)
  • beginning to develop a common language around effective practices that require deeper learning (March)
  • co-creating a mechanism for every staff member to go into other classrooms to co-plan and observe deeper learning practices (March)
  • creating a culture of 'learning to see, unlearning to judge' so that we can observe and describe the deeper learning that is taking place (April)
  • inviting deeper learning practitioners to work with members of our district and our staff (May)
  • visiting schools that are requiring deeper learning of their students (June)
However, as much as we are now in March and have taken the initial steps listed above, my participation in the DL MOOC coupled with the conversations with teachers at our school has changed my thinking about this plan.

In Monday night's panel discussion on 'Assessing Deeper Learning', moderator Rob Riordan asked a question of the panel from the audience which was "Can you talk about the transition of schools that might have a more traditional, 'no excuses' type approach in their pedagogy moving to deeper learning?".  This question was interesting to me, because we are just beginning our journey to more pervasive, deeper learning in our classes.

Bob Lenz of Envision talked about data and the importance of using data to guide discussions, and of particular note to him was about the examining the resiliency of a school's graduates in college.  In his opinion, by looking at this resiliency data, schools who were moving in the right direction were seeing data that suggests students had not acquired the skills to be independent learners, and were at least asking the right questions as to why this was occurring. 

Interesting.  I do not have this data.  I would like to get such data.

Megan Pacheco from New Tech Network then spoke about how schools who are being successful in making such a shift have spent a great deal of time on the WHY, and understanding and making sense of the outcomes that will help develop this common why. She went on to discuss how we often jump to new instructional approaches such as problem based learning without spending enough time on the WHY, and that it was more important to spend the time developing a commitment to the vision of your graduate and the types of skills that you want to develop.

Even more interesting.  And as a result, I think I need to work with our staff to alter our plan.  I think it needs to look more like this:
  • creating a set of attributes that we want for our graduates (September)
  • refining those attributes with the help of our students, parents and community (October-March)
  • examining the 'whys' of why we need to have students learn deeply in our classes (Jan/Feb)
  • begin to develop a common language around effective practices that require deeper learning (March)
  • re-visit the WHY, and find ways to encourage people to speak, to tell stories and construct their own contexts and meaning around why deeper learning for students is important;
    • after re-visiting the why, co-create a mechanism for every staff member to go into other classrooms to co-plan and observe deeper learning practices (March)
  • again, re-visit the WHY, and find ways to encourage more and different people to speak, and find examples, data and research to allow the WHY to become even more authentic on a variety of different fronts
    • then, create a culture of 'learning to see, unlearning to judge' so that we can observe and describe the deeper learning that is taking place (April)
  • continue to re-visit the WHY, with teachers and students bringing back examples of how they demonstrate deeper learning as exemplars
    • then, invite deeper learning practitioners to work with members of our district and our staff (May)
And really, I think we will find ways to re-visit why until we find ourselves are asking ourselves "Why are we still talking about why?" because we are so committed to the attributes and the vision that we have for our students. 

We aren't in this spot yet---quite far from it, in fact.  And too often my implementation scale is tipped towards the 'how' as opposed to the 'why'.  Thanks to the conversations that I have had with our teachers at the school and the panel in the DLMOOC, I look forward to finding new and innovative ways to contextualize the why with and for our school.

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Cale. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as you move through DLMOOC. The feedback is very useful to us.

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  2. Cale wrote:

    And really, I think we will find ways to re-visit why until we find ourselves are asking ourselves "Why are we still talking about why?" because we are so committed to the attributes and the vision that we have for our students.

    -------------------------------------

    Brilliant statement, Pal.

    If you quit revisiting the Why before a practice becomes so deeply embedded in the culture of a building that people stop asking Why questions, you're screwed.

    Practices aren't embraced simply because you had the Why conversation in September. Practices are embraced only when people see the Why in action in their own rooms and feel the Why in their professional cores.

    That's a realization that checklist leaders often overlook.

    Hope you're well. We should Google Chat or something. I need a kickstart too.
    Bill

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  3. Simply want to say your article is surprising and impressive. This is really fascinating. Thanks

    ReplyDelete