OneThing45: the Teacher, the Student, and the Work

Three things make a classroom hum with learning

School Change Model 4.0.  This version includes curriculum.

School Change Model 4.0. This version includes curriculum.

In this latest iteration of the School Change Model, I have included the final key ingredient required for an effective classroom: the curriculum. Or, as noted educational researcher Robert Marzano calls it . . . “the guaranteed and viable curriculum,” the single most important factor in student achievement.

Therefore, the three things needed for high impact instruction to occur are students, teachers, and content.  That’s the work.  When there is a change any one of those variables, the other two will necessarily be impacted. If there is a curricular change, teachers need training and the students will consequently do different work; if the students change, then teachers and curriculum may need to change, especially if there is cultural shift in the school.  If teachers change, there will be impacts to the delivery of content and student learning. A change in any one requires attention to the other two.

The Instructional Team Capacity results from teachers having both pedagogical skill (often called “high-impact”) and knowledge of teenagers (a capacity to know what makes teenagers tick).  It is this combined capacity that drives instructional efficacy, an instructional team’s rate of delivering content and engaging student learning.

In this model, then, are the foundational ideas of an adaptive school.  While there are remain some corners of detail that need flashing out, the deep structure of a Learning Team is there.

Simple Capacity Model.  One might focus on the current LEVEL of the stock, or one might focus on the RATE of change.  These will be two really different things.

Simple Capacity Model. One might focus on the current LEVEL of the stock, or one might focus on the RATE of change. These will be two really different things.

Of course, there is never a point when a school has it down, when it should rest when it attains a certain level.  The focus of a Learning Team is on the flow, improving a school’s capacity to deliver highly qualified citizens to its community.  You can imagine the political discussion:

  • CITIZENS: our school’s are not graduating enough college-ready students
  • SCHOOL: we are improving our instruction every year

It would help both to know that they are talking about the same system, just different parts of it!


QuickThing3>Teaching Systems Thinking in Science | Science for All

Teaching Systems Thinking in Science | Science for All.

The Enigmatic Kirk Robbins

Kirk Robbins’s blog Science for All is a smart, entertaining, well-maintained blog that daily tells the story of science instruction in middle and high school.  He’s a fun writer and keeps close tabs on ALL goings-on of science instruction across the country.  In this entry, he puts out an All-Call for help with systems materials.

Let’s help!

OneThing20: how mind and nature might connect

Gregory Bateson tells us that we ought always look for the “pattern which connects.”

Gregory Bateson

I first stumbled upon Gregory Bateson while a college student and working at a local book distributorship. Our customers were college and university libraries, and one of them had purchased a beautiful hardbound copy of Mind and Nature – a Necessary Unity.  I stood there, over the packing table, thumbing through the book filled with words I’d never seen before:   stochastic, lineal, ostensive, morphogenesis, and homology. At least I could pronounce them, and that was enough to seduce me.  And then this: what is the pattern that connects all living things?

My own prized copy

It was the first mind-stretching book I read in my life.  Some parts of it completely escaped me (some still do), but I kept at it, mesmerized by the language and that recurring phrase, “search for the pattern that connects.” The chapter on “Every Schoolboy Knows” I read and reread – it is where I received one of the intellectual gems of my feeble scientific interest: “science never proves anything.”  It was hard to take.  Take in, that is.  Every paragraph punched me in my paradigm.

It’s still punching today.  The premises of thought upon which all our teaching is based are ancient and, I assert, obsolete.

To the extent we create and inhabit a built environment opposed to nature, attempting to obliterate nature – covered from rain, warmed by a furnace, cooled by air conditioning, transported by car, bus or jet, elevated by escalators and elevators, cleansed in showers, filled with store-bought food, clothed by fabrics milled and stitched by machines – we engender a damning separation of mind and nature.

Even now, short paragraphs slip from my grip: ” we have to show that the difference between two consecutive summations of odd numbers is equal and always (emphasis his) equal to the difference between the squares of their ordinal names.”  From which I eventually culled cardinal and ordinal. All these dazzling words made me giddy – fun to speak aloud, but empty of meaning, at least then.  Here, then, in Gregory Bateson’s esoteric tongue were the emanations of my imaginative life breaking free of something.

The world I grew up in was not a pile of parts; it was one all thing.

OneThing19: sappy Mindwalk may still help us

We will need to change our paradigm from a mechanistic one to an organic one

"Mindwalk" appeared in theaters in 1990 with Liv Ullman, John Heard, and Sam Watterson

In a movie reminiscent of My Dinner With Andre, Mindwalk came to the big screen over 20 years ago.  It is not likely that this film would play more than a weekend; even then, the venues would be independent, neighborhood theaters.  It’s just people walking around, in a spectacular place of course, but they’re just talking about ideas.  The vast monolithic paradigm is cracking at every conceivable corner and bend and fold.  You can’t see it happening, of course.  It’s all going on in your head as you listen to this.  To readers of this blog, you’re probably already there.  When this first appeared, not so much.

Fritjof Capra’s brother Bernt produced the film.  It is set in Mont Saint-Michel, France.  The set up:  a US politician goes to visits his friend in France, and they join up with Sonja, who tells them about Systems Theory.

The acting is, well, not really acting. Cheese-ball comes to mind.  They walk and talk.  It’s a lecture on a stroll, a Chautauqua on the beach.  It might also be a great way to introduce this idea.

OneThing18: Barry Richmond’s model of the learning process

What Barry Richmond can teach us about how students might become Systems Citizens

Barry Richmond - creator of STELLA and systems citizen

A few years ago, I spent two days with Barry Richmond when he and I teamed for a workshop with a handful of teachers in Norwalk – La Mirada Unified School District.  Evenings, I sat with him and listened to his work in systems, his sense of how system dynamics was working in schools, and his stories of his family.  Before that time, Barry had come out to Portland to help us with Sym♦FEST, a gathering of middle and high school students who shared models and participated in workshops.  At that time, Barry revealed to us that the work our students were doing “floods [my] heart.”

Let’s now take a look at the complete model as he mapped it.  Previously, I talked about portions of this in OneThing15 and OneThing17.

Barry's full model integrates all aspects of the learning process

First, note the symmetry and rondure of his map.  It is easy to read, open, and clear.

Second, he mapped a continuous, closed-loop process.

Third, his core assumptions are embedded in brief narratives and systems iconography.

Fourth, note the clean delineation among the elements:  constructing, simulating, and communicating. And Barry’s clear connections, both information (dashed connectors) and action (solid connectors).

Fifth, and the core assumption of this model, the student is doing the work.  The so-called “Other-Inspired Learning” (in schools, we called this “teacher instruction”) is off to the side.  Barry captured what students are actually doing as they learn.

Sixth, and last (for now, at least), the Communicating sector of this model is often the one omitted from most school’s models.  And even if it is part of a curriculum, it does not capture what Barry describes here: “making the model elements, structures and outcomes available for scrutiny.” In such a constructivist model, the learner is apprentice in a small shop (classroom) observed by a master (teacher) who counsels and critiques the apprentice’s work – in this case, not a repaired shoe or a beveled weld or plumbed toilet, but a thought about how something works.

To close, I offer this link to isee systems tribute to Barry