Thursday, January 28, 2016

Paradigm Shift - What Problems Do You Want To Solve?

It happened again -- that confluence of events that make you sit up and take notice of a common theme.

Tuesday morning, the Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation held its first annual Business Breakfast with about 55-60 members of our community. Batting clean-up after keynoter Kevin Stotts, President of Talent 2025, I spoke for a few minutes on innovation efforts here in FHPS, including our continued learning in the realm of the T-Profile:



It struck a chord with many in the audience, and we had some great informal discussions afterward before all rushing off in separate directions for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday evening, I was reading an ASCD guide (Buckner & Boyd's STEM Leadership, 2015) and came across "10 Key Questions to Assess Your Learners' 21st Century Literacy," with learners being defined as both staff and students:
Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurial Skills
1. Do my learners demonstrate intellectual curiosity?
2. Do my learners act on creative and new ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to self or culture?
Critical Thinking, Systems Thinking, and Problem-Solving Skills
3. Are my learners able to make complex choices and decisions?
4. Are my learners able to frame, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to solve problems and answer questions?
Interpersonal, Collaboration, and Communication Skills
5. When given the opportunity, do my learners articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing?
Information and Media Literacy
6. Are my learners able to analyze, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in a variety of forms and media?
Self-Directional Skills
7. Are my learners able to monitor their own understanding and learning needs to accomplish goals that have been set?
Life Skills
8. Are my learners able to adapt to varied roles and responsibilities while bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work?
9. Are my learners able to set and meet high standards and goals for delivering quality work on time?
10. Are my learners able to leverage the strengths of others to accomplish a common goal?
Hmmm, I thought. This sounds a lot like those broad competencies we would want for every learner, not just those in STEM courses or programs. It also sounds a lot like our instructional framework. Maybe I should think on this some more. And then I promptly fell asleep.

Finally, on Wednesday morning, I came across this image in my Facebook feed, and reposted it:


One last momentary glimpse inside my cobwebbed mind: "DUH - YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT A PARADIGM SHIFT!"

One thing we know -- paradigm shifts are hard work. They tackle the essence of how we see ourselves and the world. In the immortal words of Carolyn McKanders, it means "we're going to mess with your identity." And this paradigm shift messes with the identity of all education stakeholders: students, families, teachers, administrators, school board members, community members, taxpayers, policymakers, and government officials, just to name a few.

Let's look at a historical paradigm shift in science as an example. Our friend Copernicus introduces a new theory in the sixteenth century that the earth revolves around the sun. It flies in the face of more than a thousand years of accepted fact and common sense, and, it seeks to replace a theory that still works. As outlined in a Forbes article:
Copernicus's heliocentric model did no better predicting celestial events than the Ptolemaic system. All the Copernicus model could offer was the nebulous promise of better, simpler, solutions to other problems that might be developed at some point in the future....Copernicus's theory was a better theory, but the social and political cost of accepting it was horrendous: it risked undermining the entire religious basis of medieval society, along with the authority of the Pope.
Yes, paradigm shift is hard work. One of the twentieth century's leading researchers on paradigms and theories was Thomas Kuhn, who identified five characteristics to compare when contemplating a shift from one paradigm to another: accuracy; internal consistency, and external consistency with other accepted theories; scope, in that consequences should extend beyond the data it is required to explain; simplicity in organizing phenomena; and fruitfulness for further research (Kuhn, 1977). This likely explains why the Copernicus model ultimately prevailed -- it has a broader scope and is more fruitful.

What happens when we compare the 120+ year old model of teacher- and content-centric education with a new learning- and learner-centric model? Are we ready to engage in the comparison of paradigms? And if we find that the latter paradigm is more promising for our learners, how do we make the shift?

Join the conversation...
What might be the "costs" of accepting a new education paradigm? What existing people, systems, structures, and institutions will (be)(feel) challenged? What problems do you want to solve?

P.S. If you're in the Grand Rapids area on February 17, feel free to join us for a community viewing of the film Most Likely To Succeed at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. Screening time is 6:30pm and admission is free.

No comments:

Post a Comment