cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Untitled blue
My mind has been racing as it seems there are amazing things happening all over the world, and in our own community, that are pushing education forward. I see more people taking the plunge, getting elbow deep into their own learning. I am inspired every single day, and I am seeing some amazing connections between the work that educators are doing and the learning that is happening in the classroom.
Here is the question that keeps popping into my head though: Where is the data that supports this progression in our own practice resulting in success in our schools? This can be about any initiatives in schools ranging from assessment, technology integration, critical thinking, and so on. The problem is, with many things happening in education today, they are so new that the “data” is lacking. Sometimes even if data is there, it might not necessarily prove anything. For example, if we say the purpose of school is to prepare our students to be happy and contributing citizens in our society, how do high standardized tests prove this? All it really proves is that students did well on the test.
So where does the research come from? Well, before anyone deems something successful, someone has to have ventured out, taken the risks, and tried something that was “different” at that time. But what motivated them to try in the first place? Some would even be concerned that trying something different is not considerate of our students and we are placing their futures at risk. But as educators, do we ever do things that are unproven and totally make no sense? There is a difference between “risk” and “calculated risk”.
We must first consider and discuss what we are doing now and does it work? Well in any system, some things will “work” for a number of students, but we should always be striving to do what is right by as many students as possible, and ideally, for all students. The idea of personalized learning is something that should work for everyone because common sense would say that if I tailor a program to fit the needs of a child, the child will be more successful. That is obviously easier said than done, but the more personalization we can bring into education, the better off we should be.
Also, we should be continuously looking at our world, and the shifts that are happening, to make sure that we are preparing our students to be successful. It would be foolish to ignore technological advances in the world, as they have made such a large impact. With so many companies and organizations adopting technology as part of their everyday operations, how could we not implement this into our schools? It would seem foolish to ignore it.
Most importantly though, we need to listen to our kids and then act on their suggestions. Recently, Alberta started a huge initiative in our province called “Speak Out Alberta” which was meant to hear the voices of our students. It is great to listen to them, but it is more important to work at creating the environments that they say will work best for them.
Last year, I wrote a post titled “The Impact of Awards” and it discussed my belief on why award systems were not best for our students. My shift in thinking came from first seeing this Daniel Pink Ted Talk, and then followed by reading his book, “Drive“. Although he did talk about research, his common sense examples just made sense; the research to me meant little when he could explain it so simply.
One of the comments from the aforementioned post, shared by Matthew Ray, has stuck out to me ever since the day I read it. He discussed a scenario shared by Rick Lavoie when talking about how awards kill innovation in children:
In one workshop (FAT City), he creates an environment for a group of adults to help them understand the pressures of being a child. He has the group look at a picture and demands to know what’s in the picture. No one can name it. So he calls on one woman and essentially says: “Oh, come on! How can you not see it? It’s right there. You’re not looking hard enough! Look harder!” (Don’t we all think and say these things to our kids sometimes?)
Finally he says, “All right, look. If you can tell me what’s in that picture, I’ve got a blank check for $100 that I will write out to you. You tell me what’s in there and you get a hundred bucks!”
Will that possibly motivate the person to do anything further if she can’t possibly see what’s in the picture? Of course not. Yet she has the added pressure of the reward making her feel inadequate. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
That is not based on research, but just thinking about it, and using logic helped me understand why this would not be an approach I would want to take with students. Not only did this make sense to me, but the “story” that was used created an emotional connection for me that often data would not invoke. Stories are often the thing that move people forward:
“The gestures made (or not made) by leaders can turn into the stories that powerfully affect behavior…Leaders who understand this and use this knowledge to help make their organizations great are the ones we admire and wish others would emulate. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.” Forbes – The Power of Stories
Here are some questions that are pushing my thinking right now…
Someone has to go out there and do research and lay the ground work so why not us? Why are we so willing to wait for “someone else” to clear the path? If we are looking at the world and seeing the change, why would we not do our best to prepare our kids for that? By the time we get the “data”, will it be too late?
If things were working, we wouldn’t change, but there is evidence that we could just do better.
What do you think?