Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Toward a Compelling Argument

In Pulling It All Together, I laid out my vision for teaching and learning, and what I believe it takes to get there. The first step is creating enough cognitive dissonance to convince a few hardy souls to join me on a journey. I don't think that words are going to be enough; I think that you need to experience something profound before your perspective widens enough to see the mountains I see. I have a couple of things in the pipeline that might accomplish that. But words help. They especially help after someone has had that profound experience and is eager to learn more.

Getting someone to hear, never mind accept, all of the arguments in Pulling It All Together is unlikely. I want to start by making one compelling argument. I'm confident that, if I can make the case for one argument, then the rest of the arguments will follow like dominoes. But which one? That's where I need your help. Which argument was the most compelling or created the most cognitive dissonance for you? Which argument resonated the most with you and made you want to learn more? That's the argument I'd like to refine.

Argument #1: We need a new normal. We need a shift in core beliefs and some of the things that we accept today need to become unthinkable tomorrow. Creating oases of inspired teaching is not good enough. We need wide-scale change that touches everybody and everything.

Argument #2: We need a sense-making curriculum. It is completely unacceptable to force students to endure a curriculum that makes no sense to them. Students cannot take ownership of their own learning, engage with the content, or problem solve if they can't make sense of the curriculum. All students can make sense of the curriculum and relying on instruction alone is not good enough.

Argument #3: Incremental progress is not good enough. We are trying to roll massive boulders up small hills without recognizing that the peaks of those hills are not nearly high enough to get us where we want to go. We need to find another set of hills that are taller. None of the current reform efforts are working.

Argument #4: You need cognitive dissonance to get someone to stop what they are doing and widen their perspective. If they don't experience something that makes them consider that the impossible might just be possible, then you aren't going to get them to set off in a new direction. They might follow you to be compliant or professional, but they won't take ownership of the journey.

Argument #5: We need a compass. We need a compass that will give us a clear heading when we are lost in the daily grind and don't have time to look up and gain perspective. The compass should be a good proxy for all of the metrics we care about. It should have a strong and compelling signal. Everyone in the party should have a compass so that we can work independently while all moving in the same direction. We need to internalize the compass over time.

Argument #6: We need to follow a line of mountains. Each mountain enables us to set a heading and recalibrate our compasses. The line of mountains enables us to move from one peak to a taller peak. Each time we scale a taller mountain, our confidence and capabilities grow and more people join our party.

Argument #7: We need hands-on and shared leadership. Each leg of the journey prepares us for the next leg. Each leg is arduous and requires strong leadership and good decision-making along the way. School leaders need to be on the ground the entire time or else they won't be prepared themselves. You can't just check in periodically. You can't turn things over to consultants. We have to be in it together.

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