Do the practices we adopt reflect the values we espouse?

Knowledge for action: A guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change

Knowledge for action: A guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change

Practice and Values

Our practices should reflect our values, but they are not, themselves, our values. The way we do things can change, indeed, they often have to change. Values, on the other hand, are closer to the head and heart and are less likely (but not impossible) to change.

“That’s just the way we do things here…”

If you’re going to hang on to something, hang on to a value over a practice. Your values guide how you approach a changing world and new ideas. The practices you adopt should embody the values you espouse. Appreciating the difference between values and practices can alleviate some of the fears associated with change; we are not giving up who we are, nor what is important to us when we shift our practice. Rather, we are exercising our values in a different, possibly more effective way.

 

Argyris, C. (1993). Knowledge for action: A guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

Why change? A short video on 21st Century Learning and Curriculum Innovation

The what's and why's of 21st Century Learning

Pedagogical Frameworks

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning - This web site offers an in-depth exploration of what collaboration is, how it works, how to implement it, and some resources for getting started.

Ideas Into Action: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures - This PDF document explores the value of collaborative learning, offers up a selection of research that supports the approach, and provides a framework and strategies for implementation at a systems level.

Project-Based Learning

Seven Essentials for Project-Based Learning - This article describes some of the essential elements of project-based learning (PBL).

Teacher's Guide to Project-Based Learning - This PDF is a comprehensive guide to PBL that includes examples, the research base, strategies for implementation and integration as well as forms to guide planning.

Online Resource for PBL - This website has a wide variety of resources for designing, sharing, implementing, and supporting PBL initiatives.

Inquiry

Getting Started with Student Inquiry - This PDF offers a framework for understanding inquiry describing what one would observe from students and teachers.

Inquiry-Based Learning - This PDF is part of the same series as the item above. It describes the rationale for using inquiry, the key concepts, and the guiding philosophy.It also offers very practical implementation strategies including conversational phrasing that evokes deeper thinking.

Cognitive Frameworks

Self-Regulation

There are two aspects to self-regulation: one is the individual's comprehension of their own physical states and their ability to manage it; the other is the individual's management of their own efforts in terms of purpose and efficacy.The two are intertwined but it is helpful to appreciate each individually.

Self-Regulation.ca is a website that focuses on the physical aspects offering explanations and resources for understanding and developing physical self-regulation.

Calm, Alert, and Learning - This PDF explores the impact of self-regulation on learners along with some frameworks for understanding the component parts of self-regulation.

Encouraging Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) - This PDF surveys the research into the cognitive aspects of SRL and offers specific skills that can be developed to increase the efficacy of an individual's efforts.

Metacognition

Thinking Metacognitively - This PDF offers a brief overview of metacognitive practices, some strategies for implementation, and phrasing that evokes metacognitive thought.

Metacognition - This web page defines, and offers a research base for pursuing metacognitive instruction. It also outlines a framework for implementation and links to external resources and supports.

Early Human project evolution: project based, self regulation, understanding by, as told in design Microsoft Sway

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge: An Executive Summary with Discussion Questions (PDF)

Those were the days: my great aunt's recollection of school in the 1920s

My Great Aunt Doris was a school teacher. She has long since left us, but she wrote a short booklet of family memories back in 1983. One of those recollections, titled, "School and Careers", always struck me as both funny and sad and I have always wanted to share the story with others. Here is a little video I made of the story - they are her words.

We certainly have come a long way in how we treat children.

Reforming the Annual Reflection on Professional Learning

The Annual Reflection on Professional Learning (ARPL) is, I believe, a colossal waste of effort, but not for the reasons you may think...

Knowledge Building

Schools are filled with very creative and insightful professionals who, every year, craft statements or artifacts that reflect on, and make sense of key learning and experiences in their professional lives. The reflections exemplify key components of instructional leadership, namely reflective practice and a focus on learning for both students and educators alike. As a form of knowledge building, these documents offer valuable insight into the ongoing development of educators at every point in the profession from first-year through to retirement.

And what happens to all this knowledge?

It sits in a central office filing cabinet somewhere never to be seen again.

Lost Opportunities

As a policy tool, the ARPL successfully engages educators in reflective practice but misses the mark when it comes to Public Practice. Instructional leadership requires communication and translation of knowledge from the knowledge creator to the knowledge consumer. Without knowledge translation, the ARPL is little more than an exercise in compliance.

So, do we give up on the ARPL?

Absolutely not - but we do need to approach it differently.

The Profession is the Audience

What if the ARPL was approached as a knowledge building activity - still reflective and still personal, but it would be understood that they would be made public. The audience for these reflections would not be simply the central office or school administrator, but The Profession. We reflect and record our experiences making that learning accessible as a contribution to the betterment of teachers everywhere.

Writing the ARPL in this context connects us as professionals. We become part of a larger community of contributors to the profession, not just practitioners. In submitting their reflections, educators would supply a list of key-words and themes so they can be tagged for easy retrieval. They can also specify whether or not they want their names attached to the published content after they have been reviewed by administrators. The ARPL maintains its policy objective of encouraging reflective practice while gaining tremendous value as a knowledge building and translation tool.

What do you think? Would you approach the ARPL differently if it was going to be shared? Would you be interested in reading others' reflections? Do you think there is value in sharing our professional learning?

Article reflection, "The community of inquiry as a basis for knowledge and learning: The case of history" by Peter Seixas

Reflections on the article, "The community of inquiry as a basis for knowledge and learning: The case of history" by Peter Seixas.

Seixas, P. (1993). The community of inquiry as a basis for knowledge and learning: The case of history. American Educational Research Journal Summer, 30(2), 305–324.
The author describes how history is less about finding the truth and more about finding meaning. He describes how constructivist approaches To history see communities of interested people come together to find meaning in a text or event.  Some value in this process is the continual revisiting of understandings based on current experiences. The danger is that we lose sight of the lessons of the past and move down unproductive or dangerous paths. My own sense is that a continual revisiting, at least for the learner, has tremendous value inasmuch as he or she deconstructs an event or a piece of knowledge and comes to a deeper understanding of the meaning. His mention of historical relativism made me wonder whether there can be any shared agreement on what is/was true that transcends time. Are there historical experiences or understandings that can be taken as fact in any context and at any point in the future. Perhaps it is the notion of pluralism, that many points of view revisiting historical events calls us to reconfirm our shared understandings of what is right and wrong, or true or false. Perhaps it is less a matter of reinterpreting the past and more a matter of revisiting and re-understanding history that makes it vital and meaningful in today's context. As someone on the periphery of academic history, it seems to me less important the way how history is studied and more important that history BE studied.

In constructivist learning approaches, students come together to make meaning. The real deep learning comes from the analysis of their meaning-making, and holding their suppositions up to scrutiny. Like the academic historian, students are faced with revising their suppositions or abandoning them if no evidence can be found to support their position. The question arises about students making meaning that is logically or scientifically incorrect. This is where others in the learning community come together to explore evidence and arrive at a better conclusion. A phrase I frequently use with my students is "history is always changing." This is meant to communicate that history, like science, is simply our current best understanding given the evidence that we have. As new evidence emerges, our understandings may change.

Essential skills in history that are not facts, figures, and events, but processes of inquiry and criticism. Learning to read and observe objectively, construct hypotheses, and support those statements with evidence are the real critical skills. For both students and historians, communities can emerge around ideas. James Paul Gee describes how the Internet affords us virtual spaces that allow for engagement with others regardless of space and time. He calls these "affinity spaces", spaces that bring together people and ideas on topics of interest. Gee puts forth that the Internet allows communities of inquiry to emerge easily, to exist for as long as they need to exist, and compile artifacts of that engagement in a lasting record.

The author talks about the audience for the work of the different groups. In 1993 when this article was written, the Internet was really just emerging into common use. Today, however, the Internet is ubiquitous,  And the audience can be understood as the community now. High school student may access academic work making the author part of that student's community. Discussion boards and Internet forums invite participation from anyone interested in the topic. These participants are likely to have a wide range of experience and understandings. Collectively, they contribute, consume, and make meaning in that virtual space.
Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Macmillan.

Defining teaching, learning, creativity, and innovation

In a course titled, "Innovation in Teaching and Learning" we were challenged to come up with our own definitions of teaching, learning, creativity, and innovation. Here are mine and the rationale for each. I expect as I continue with the course and indulge in more reading the definitions will be unpacked, nuanced, and refined. In the spirit of learning out loud, here they are.

Creativity is the cognitive exploration of possibilities beyond or outside conventional experience or practice.

Paulus & Nijstad as cited in Runco (2004) offer a brief definition of creativity as, “the development of original ideas that are useful or influential.” This places heavy emphasis on the utility of, or audience for an idea. I'm not so convinced that utility is an essential element of creativity though. Looking at the criteria by which creativity is measured in the literature offers some insight. Hocevar & Bachelor (1989) surveyed existing studies of creativity and established eight categories from their findings. Two measures look at the creative process: divergent thinking, and attitudes and interests. Two more, personality and biographical inventories, relate to personal characteristics of those deemed to be creative. The remaining categories relate to identifying creativity namely, ratings by teachers, peers, and supervisors, judgements of products, eminence, and self-reported creative activities and achievements. There is nothing in those categories that speak to the consumers or utility of creativity. It seems to me that creativity is a process rather than a product. It is the exertion of energy to search beyond conventional bounds for inspiration. I have no problem considering an idea as a product of creativity even if its influences are not obvious anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, research in computational creativity (programming computers to be creative) looks for systems that produce both expected and novel results which are suitable to the purpose and have high value (Jordanous, 2012). Because computers are designed to perform certain functions, computational creativity is purpose driven.

Hocevar, D., & Bachelor, P. (1989). A taxonomy and critique of measurements used in the study of creativity. In J. A. Glover, R. R. Ronning, & C. R. Reynolds (Eds.), Handbook of Creativity (pp. 53–76). New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=nFLUBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA53&ots=ZY201l80nZ&lr&pg=PR16#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jordanous, A. (2012). A Standardised Procedure for Evaluating Creative Systems: Computational Creativity Evaluation Based on What it is to be Creative. Cognitive Computation4(3), 246–279.http://doi.org/10.1007/s12559-012-9156-1

Runco, M. A. (2004). Creativity. Annual Review of Psychology55(1), 657–687.http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141502

Innovations are processes, products or practices outside conventional experience that result from the application of creative thinking.

This definition emphasizes that innovation has some tangible element while creativity is more cerebral and is supported by Hennessey’s (2010) definition of innovation as, |the successful implementation of creative ideas”. Creativity is the impetus and innovation is the result or product of creativity. It is interesting that Hennessey emphasizes, “successful” implementation – it raises the question whether utility is a necessary element of innovation. It brings to mind the story, probably apocryphal, of Edison describing how he had been successful in discovering 700 ways not to make a light bulb.

“… academic achievement and creativity would lead to innovation, pushing fields such as information technology…”

“… focus on methods to foster organizational climates conducive to innovation.”

“Management must truly want and be committed to creativity and be willing to sacrifice short term results for innovation.”

“… creative abrasion can result in successful innovation.”

Adams, K. (2005). The Sources of Innovation and CreativityEducation. Retrieved from http://www.fpspi.org/Pdf/InnovCreativity.pdf

Hennessey, B. A., & Amabile, T. M. (2010). Creativity. Annual Review of Psychology61(1), 569–598. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100416

Teaching is a behaviour intended to transfer knowledge to another person.

This is a very brief and broad definition of teaching intended to distill the essence of what we understand to be “teaching”. Reflecting on the verb form of the word, there is, I propose, some intentionality or purpose on the part of the actor – if someone is teaching, they mean to produce a change in the learner’s knowledge state.

Understand this nuance in contrast to a child hearing a parent use profanity. The parent is teaching the child to profane, but it is unlikely that the behaviour is intended to develop that skill in the child. In this circumstance, I would argue that the parent is not “teaching” even though the child is learning. By the same token, consider a child informing a younger sibling of a “bad word” and cajoling them to use it in a certain way. The older sibling is acting with the goal of having the learner acquire knowledge of the word. I would argue that the older sibling is, in this case, teaching a learner.

It raises interesting questions about those who are not necessarily teachers, but who are moral examples or role models. Is Oprah a teacher? Nelson Mandela? Pope Benedict? Bill Gates?

A quick peek at Bruner’s (1966) book, “Toward a Theory of Instruction” throws another interesting nuance into the discussion. He describes “instruction”, which is in the realm of teaching, to be behaviours intended to facilitate growth and development.

Both terms, “teaching” and “learning” offer fertile ground for exploration and debate and I have far more questions than answers after this exercise. I expect that these simple little statements will be unpacked over the next few weeks.

There are people whose roles put them into positions of influence and the teaching element is an acknowledged part of that. Oprah, Pope Benedict, Gates, etc. recognize their influence and use their example to teach others. Incidental teachers include parents for sure, but also celebrities who are watched and imitated by others. In this respect, everyone is a teacher. I think, though, to consider one's self a teacher, there has to be some intention behind it. The act of teaching is purposeful. Learning, on the other hand, happens all the time. All of us are always learning to different degrees.

However, since writing this, I encountered the idea that people often actively RESIST learning seeking to assimilate new ideas into their existing schemas. In doing this, they avoid the often challenging work of disassembling one’s own notions and holding them against a different world view.

Learning is the lasting acquisition of knowledge resulting in a change of attitude, world-view, behaviour, or capacity.

While “teaching”, I suggested, has an element of intentionality, learning does not. Learning can be intentional, incidental, and accidental. How do we know if someone is learning? There will be some change in understanding or skills. They will possess some capacity of thought or behaviour that they did not before the learning took place.

It is probably worth exploring whether an understanding of learning should consider temporal bounds – for example, should the acquisition of knowledge that is temporarily stored for immediate use and quickly forgotten be considered “learning”? Does knowledge have to be retained for some time before we should call it “learned”?

Perhaps the phone number scenario is better described as, “remembering” inasmuch as the number is simply held for a period of time though it does, while remembered, afford the learner / rememberer the capacity to make a phone call.

Thinking more on remembering, it could be that an experience long in the past can be recalled to provide a lesson for the present which results in a change in understanding or skills. The learner makes new meaning from old experiences.

And what does it mean to "make meaning"? Is that what we do with learning? Perhaps "understanding" is the act of making meaning from our learning.

Fun thinking about words we toss around as though we know what they mean!

 

Article reflection: Paul Smeyers, "What Philosophy can and cannot do for education."

Facebook Wittgenstein

This post is a reflection on Paul Smeyers' article titled, "What philosophy can and cannot do for education."

"debate ... does not lead to conclusions; rather, its function is to make those involved sensitive to the way something can be appreciated"

 Once the author explores Wittgenstein's propositions linking language with meaning, he eventually describes the importance of literature as artistic applications of language in order to explore and share understandings of the human condition.

Wittgenstein's proposition 7 famously said, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Smeyers connects this with the notion that there are aspects to the human condition and experience that are beyond words - that language has no capacity to communicate effectively about matters of the soul, or deep emotion. These, Smeyers seems to suggest, are the domain of art rather than literature. We experience art and feel our way to understanding through "perspicuous representation" which, I believe, can also be made with language though Wittgenstein might point out the vast distance between the word and the meaning.

Therapy is an intervention intended to fix a problem. The means by which the problems are fixed is Philosophy. The tools of philosophy are myriad - different conceptual frameworks within which related tools are used to deconstruct, analyze, and understand the issue working toward a solution. As educators equipped with these tools, we can better deconstruct messages, find meaning in texts, recognize the lenses through which our students see the world, and improve our facility with communication to engage with and share thoughts and experiences with others.

Have to admit that this article was a hard slog. I dabbled in linguistics for my undergrad and read a little philosophy here and there, but I needed a lot of support to get through this article. Ended up reaching out on Facebook to some friends in the thinking business.They filled in some blanks and connected me with a couple of explanatory papers on Wittgenstein's propositions. I'm sure there is a lot I missed from the article though I certainly know a lot more now than I did before! Anxious to hear other's reflections and reactions to the article!

Thanks to Michael Mauws, Phil Veldhuis, and Luke O'Connor for sharing their insight and understanding of Wittgenstein's role and message.

Smeyers, P. (2006). What philosophy can and cannot do for education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 25(1-2), 1–18. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-006-6427-x

Wittgenstein: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Wittgenstein: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Can we learn without learning institutions?

Ivan Illich would have shouted out an unequivocal YES to that questions. In his 1970 book, "Deschooling Society" Illich proclaims that educational institutions do little to achieve their intended ends and at an extraordinary cost. He pointed to the barriers erected by systems and bureaucratization thus separating citizens from their needs. The very institution designed to meet the need become incapable of doing so because of the focus on process over people,

Illich goes on to suggest solutions, namely getting rid of the institutional provision of education services in favour of personal learning networks based on interest and need. He seems to have sparked some response as there is much evidence today of Illich's thoughts in action:

  • The USA has some experiments with school voucher systems allowing families to apply principles of the market economy to schooling. They can take their education credit as a voucher and selecting what they deem to be the best school for their child. This breaks the government monopoly on education and encourages competition which may find more efficient ways to produce a better product.
  • Charter schools bring diversity to the education market offering school experiences with different focuses that may better meet the child's interests.
  • MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses bring people together to teach and support each other in a shared learning experience on topics of common interest. The institution, if one is involved, may offer little more than a framework for matching people and content.
  • Affinity Spaces - James Paul Gee in his book, "The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning" describe current practice and potential for online spaces in education. Discussion boards, forums, online chats, blogs, social media pages, each of these can serve as a virtual meeting space and repository for content and discussion. Members come and go and are more or less engaged depending on their needs. Gee calls these "Affinity Spaces". People come together over a topic of interest and teach each other. No institution required.
  • Social Constructivism / Connectivism are two learning theories that see knowledge and community as inextricably intertwined. Social Constructivists asserts that individuals make meaning through reflection on shared experience and through the co-creation of products that embody their new understandings. Connectivists see knowledge as distributed throughout a population; the learner navigates the network as both consumer of information and creator of meaning.

Each of these examples seems to reflect Illiich's exhortation to wrest free the act of learning from the terrible clutches of the bloated bureaucracy. Now, whether they are all good and effective in their own right, or whether they too will be adopted and bureaucratized in time is yet to be seen.

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