Last week, I read a blog post by Donna Fry that continues to have me thinking ever since I finished reading it … and even after I commented on it. This post speaks to the speed of change in Ontario schools. It talks about how educators are using technology in their classrooms, but also how they’re combining technology with face-to-face interactions. This post is about teaching and learning, and poses a really important question at the end of it:
My comment on the post had me really thinking about “change.” Yes, I’m a person and an educator that embraces change. Change is scary. It often makes me feel uncomfortable. But I stand behind a comment that I tweeted out last night to an EA at my previous school:
I wonder though, as I did in my blog post comment, whether everyone believes that changes need to happen. It’s fine to say that this is “where we’re going,” but if educators, administrators, support staff, and/or parents, question the benefits of these changes, are we listening to these other voices? And if we’re not, what’s the impact on the change actually happening?
The truth is, I completely understand and embrace what Donna’s saying in her post. I’ve often heard that we need to celebrate the “small changes,” but I’ve often become frustrated with how slow change seems to be. Maybe though, I need to start to see things from a different perspective. I can’t help but think back to a The Challenge Game that Kristi, my previous vice principal, taught me about last year in Grade 5. It completely changed our classroom dynamic! Even as a Grade 1 teacher, I use this game a lot with my students. We challenge ideas through the use of questions. The game is not about having a “winner” or a “loser.” It’s about identifying holes in theories or gaps in practices, and having people reconsider their solutions, revise their theories, or revamp their practices. It’s a game all about thinking, and it gets students to think … but what if it was used with adults?
I wonder what would happen if a Staff Meeting or PD session was set-up like a Challenge Game.
- Pick a topic (e.g., inquiry in the classroom, blended learning, assessment and evaluation, etc.). Choose one where you know that staff members do not all feel the same way about it.
- Filter down that topic a bit to look at a specific aspect of it (e.g., looking at assessment and evaluation of inquiry or looking at the impact that blended learning can have on student success).
- Use a Value Line to have staff members sort themselves according to their beliefs (e.g., 1. You can’t assess or evaluate inquiry because students are all doing different things. 3. Sometimes you can assess or evaluate inquiry, but you do not get enough marks out of it because the process takes so long. 5. You can assess and evaluate inquiry, but it looks different than before, as you are evaluating the process and not just the final product.).
- Use this Value Line to have people pair up with others from different parts of the line (e.g., people that position themselves at a 1 may pair up with people at a 3.) Depending on the size of the staff and the comfort level of the people playing, create groups of two to four people.
- Have the groups sit down together and play Challenge. Let one side share their beliefs, and give a chance for questioning from the other side. Then switch. Get all staff members involved in these Challenge Groups, as it’s important to have the various perspectives.
- Come back together and reflect on learning and determine next steps. I think that everyone will learn something from this process. It’s not about one right answer and a bunch of wrong answers. I think that there can be questions, concerns, and/or uncertainties about all sides of all topics, but without these frank discussions, good questions, and challenged thinking, will change ever happen?
I think that anybody can feel forced to comply to changes in practices. I also think that with this pressure, the changes that happen will be minimal, and instead of having eager staff ready to tackle the questions or concerns that come up, there will be many reluctant staff members always wondering if these changes are necessary. And maybe not all of these changes produce the best results, or maybe not all of them do for all students, in all grades, at all times. I wonder if we’ll ever know though unless we start to talk freely, listen more, and ask these challenging questions. What do you think?