1. Chris

    While we are all different and teachers teach different students; how humans learn is extremely similar. The best asset to a teacher is research. Currently I teach around 120 students. It takes me months to get to know all of my students. I teach all my students the same way.

    Education needs to be a profession that reveres research and not fall for the latest fad.

  2. Cindy Perouty

    One thing that we talk about at my school is that you “teach the student in front of you”. Each class and student is unique, so that two honors classes may have a totally different reaction to what you are teaching based on interest. It is how we reach out to them as people that counts. We Identify those elements that interest them and adjust our teaching.

  3. Amy Newman

    HI George,
    I’m interested in a particular word you used in this piece. I know you said you are just thinking these ideas out, and I appreciate that…but am curious, as you wrote: “Know the people you serve and more backwards from there…”
    As you well know, the call to Move Schools Forward, (and systems, students and ourselves…) is so prevalent that it’s become more sloganeering then advocacy. This rallying cry denudes context and individuality. Maybe this particular child needs to sit and think out a problem, dwell on something for a time. I wonder if by “move backward” you are thinking of reaching back into the child’s context at home, their history, their who-ness. Moving backwards with their relations, their kin, our kin, to pay attention to who they are becoming in our presence– or more aptly, who we are becoming together?
    Was there intentionality in writing “move backward?”

  4. You write (and this is the theme of the whole post, really): “One thing I am still adamant about…know the people you serve and move backward from there. That is always your best bet.”

    My experience is that you can’t know who you are serving before you begin to serve them, and that there is an inexhaustible and always changing store of knowledge about a person.

    So I don’t try to know people before I serve them. Here’s how it works for me:

    – I bring things to the table – background knowledge, communication skills. a big grey cat sitting on my desk…

    – People come to me for those things, and we begin.

    – I experiment, using some of my existing tools, creating new tools, interacting with the person or the audience

    So how does this related to research and innovation. Well, I think the same stipulations hold.

    – the whole idea of ‘know your customer’ or ‘know your market’ is overrated. I think that you have to bring something to the table. It may or may not serve a previously identified need.

    – the research and development programme is also iterative. You start, you work back and forth with a potential market, you iterate and you develop creatively

    Which leads us to what we mean by ‘innovation’:

    – innovation is the *outcome* of an interaction with a market, not what leads to it. The idea of some genius working in advance with a pile of research and coming up with an ‘innovation’ is nonsense

    – what makes the creative process work, and what makes some development or invention an ‘innovation’ is the fact that it creates some *benefit* for both the creator and the market (you need both)

    Which leads to the items in this post:

    – the only ‘evidence’ is in the interaction. The ‘research literature’ (including studies and data etc) are a source for ideas, but serve as ‘evidence’ only after the fact, as a rationalization

    – the biases in the research aren’t what people think they are – they are biases in the way research is conducted, and of the values served by the research, and not with respect to belief or support in some fact or another

    – there’s another set of ‘biases’ which aren’t really biases, they’re errors of reasoning – the confirmation bias, for example (the example you cite is a case of this), and people *can* be free of these errors (though they often don’t want to be)

    – my bias is toward practical application. As they say, ‘quality ships’. I won’t say I’m always successful in this, but this is were I put my efforts.

    – what counts as evidence always depends on the context. I don’t care about course completion or test grades, for example. I do care about personal empowerment, self actualization, and broader social benefit.

    I think that most of the research that constitutes ‘evidence’ for ‘evidence-based decision making’ is bunk (this includes Hatties stuff – http://www.downes.ca/post/67136 ). It’s not real research, but instead a type of busy-work intended to provide the authors with credentials.

    The types of generalizations we can reach by conducting trials with fixed and mutable variables is extremely limited. Individual variability in cognitive function is far greater than in physical function (and even in fields like medicine, doctors are wary of applying generalizations to specific cases)

    The best (and most innovative) researchers are not those who master statistical syllogisms, but rather, those who are creative and imaginative, who have strong core skills (pattern recognition, sense of value, contextual awareness, practicality, inference and change processes) and a willingness to engage with the technology, the people, and with other researchers.

  5. Rasha

    Before I had my son, I never thought that intelligent people could be misunderstood at school! Then now, I know for sure that most teachers are super busy teaching to the test and following the rules, and they never assess what the student are capable of, even at private schools because being with 30 students in a class and having to be done with many things before the final exams leave no wiggle room for the teachers!

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