Question EVERYTHING!

Bruce Wellman Education Quote 12-21-2010

Bruce Wellman said in a recent comment,

“Mental models organized by an entrenched image of what teaching is will stay firmly in place until we move the conversation to an intense focus on learning… At this point, we appear to have a 19th century curriculum, 20th century buildings and organizations and 21st century students facing an undefined future.”

Chris Kennedy wants, “sustained, meaningful conversations about k-12 education focussed on ideas. “

And more and more, I’m thinking that the changes we want… and need… involve truly questioning everything we do structurally and why we do it?

Why fill a new classroom with individual student desks?

Why have a unidirectional ‘front’ of the room? Why not have everything on wheels?

Why have the whole day set up with classes in blocks?

Why design a teacher’s schedule based on instructional time?

Why have the whole day divided by age-grouped classes?

Why a fixed curriculum in every subject? Why fixed subjects? Why textbooks?

Why grade all subjects? Why grade at all?

Why a focus on testing? How best do we ‘test’ a student’s understanding?

How do we un-school schools? How do we shift to be focused primarily on learning?

How do we integrate technology meaningfully?What’s coming up next? How do we prepare for this?

How do we give students appropriate credit for things done outside of school and classes?

Where is school being done ‘right’? What models are working? Who should we be paying attention to?

It is an exciting time to ‘think different’, to question the status quo, and to be true agents of change.

Question your assumptions.

Question why we do what we do in schools.

Question everything that keeps schools from being what they can be… now!

What will you question about your practice or the practice of schools in 2011?

- – – – – – – – – -

Update: March 27th, 2012

See my post-reflection: Truly Questioning Everything

About David Truss

Home: DavidTruss.com Blog: Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts (RSS) Podcasts: Podcasting Pair-a-Dimes (RSS) Connect: Contact David TrussGoogle+ Even more About Me: Who am I? A husband, a parent... An educator, a student... A thinker, a dreamer... An agent of change. ~Think Good Thoughts, Say Good Words, Do Good Deeds~
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31 Responses to Question EVERYTHING!

  1. Excellent questions. We have an educational system stuck in the “this is the way we do it” mode. We need some district to get out of the box and do things like: not starting kids only once a year, expecting all the kids in the room to do the same thing at the same time, having higher expectations of all students, and getting more of the top performing college students to enter the field. Keep up the good work and check DrDougGreen.Com for easy self-development.

  2. Lyn Hilt says:

    David, I really appreciate the questions you raised, these in particular:
    Where is school being done ‘right’? What models are working? Who should we be paying attention to?
    and
    How do we un-school schools? How do we shift to be focused primarily on learning?

    I know there are so many fantastic models of learning out there I have yet to explore. The more schools that share their ideas, the more we all will benefit! I also like the idea of “un-schooling” school. Too often I think we design schools and run our classrooms because that’s what “school” is supposed to be. But who says THAT’S what school is all about? Let’s challenge those preconceived notions and make school what it needs to be for our kids today!

  3. David, I absolutely love this post of yours! When I was in the Faculty of Education, my Methods Professor had us write a philosophy of education. She told us that we had to think carefully about what we wrote her, as our classroom set-up should match our philosophy (in other words, don’t say you believe in collaboration and have all of your desks in rows). I think about her every year that I set up the classroom, and I thought of her again when reading this post. We really do have to think about everything that we do and why we do it. As educators, we should be constantly questioning our educational practices, and when I go back to school on Monday, I’ll be thinking of the questions that you raised here. Another big question of mine is How do we give students even more ownership over their learning? Without a doubt, these questions and others will drive my instruction in 2011.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!
    Aviva

  4. Heidi says:

    Hey Dave!

    I’ve very consciously been questioning darned near everything in my life lately, and have come to the conclusion that the two most important questions are “why?” and “why not?”

    And as Gordon Livingston said in his book (Too soon old, too late smart), the wisdom is in knowing which one to ask! It’s a powerful way to live, in my opinion! Question, question, question!

    It’s easy to get angry. It’s much more useful to get curious! :)

  5. Dale Jarvis (@vicdale) says:

    These are important and powerful questions. I’m grateful that as a vice-principal I am still teaching in the classroom most of the time and I can lead the way by example. For instance, we are doing Literature Study Circles across 3 classes of grade 5/6 kids – 90 students, 18 books to choose from and 9 adult leaders (teachers, parents, secretary, principal, teacher of the deaf, learning support teacher, librarian) and the kids love it. It’s time to ask: Where else can we do things differently?
    You have motivated me to find more ways to think and act differently… to un-school our school.
    Thanks!

  6. Lisa Read says:

    Posts like these upset me….because for me it’s a Question Everything, Answer Nothing/Change Nothing. However, I will keep asking, and I will keep being inspired by the other askers out there. I’ll be ready when the Shift hits the Fan (ooooh! That may be the title of my next blog post!)

  7. David, great post as usual. Several thought provoking questions.

    While they all are questions worth considering, I found this one to be the most critical to answer ASAP. “Why a focus on testing?” With schools constantly striving to stay ahead of the AYP monster, more and more of them have become test-taking factories. It saddens me to think that my daughters may go to a school where the ultimate goal is for them to become ‘proficient’ on a state test.

    Do we really want our own children to merely be proficient? Or do we expect our own children to become thinkers and learners? If we expect this for our own flesh and blood, we should expect it for our students. My school did not make AYP this year because our free/reduced lunch demographics missed their mark by less than 1%. What was my message to my staff? Teach and scores will take care of themselves. Our focus is student learning. Shouldn’t that be the focus for educators?

  8. Kevin says:

    Answers… Models… Questions? give this a gander from a prof baker tweet. http://yv2.me/AgxM
    It’s a video so prep some paper, take a risk and watch it. Be that role model for your students. Tell them about in class on Monday. Better yet show them.

    The picture at the top of this blog states what is happening in Western culture… But it is also happening here in Japan. The translation method, which dates back to the 19th century is still the prominent ESL method for instruction at a large portion of public Junior and Senior high schools. Everyone has been questioning that, and a prof a the Nagoya University of Foreign Studies is trying to change it. He is slowly succeeding but all change is slow. Especially educational changes and even more so in Japan.

    So don’t get discouraged get involved.

    BTW: When standardized testing became a multi billion dollar business it became part of the curriculum.

  9. I enjoyed your questions. They are very relevant for the conversation about the 21st Century classroom. I have copied them and will share them with my administrative teams at schools that I work with through the center for Teaching. Happy New Year

    Bob Ryshke
    Center for Teaching

  10. Outstanding questions, David. I wonder: how can we transfer our questions and hopes for reform to those that can make the changes?

    I think it all, ultimately, goes back to: What skills, aptitudes, and knowledge do our students need to succeed and survive in the coming years?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    – Steve

  11. What a fantastic post, David.

    I appreciate the thought-provoking questions. As we enter into a new year and take stock of what’s working and what’s not – it is so important to not just do the same thing because it is what we are familiar with.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein

    So – if we want to see MORE or see CHANGE in this next year, in our students, in our classroom and in our learning communities – we need to be pondering these questions, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel.

    Thanks for the challenge!
    -Cheryl

  12. Dave Truss says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful comments, I am continually grateful for the contributions others make to this blog… thank you for joining in the conversation!

    I’ll quote you all, to show my appreciation and throw my ‘two-dimes-worth’ in when I think I can add some value:

    1. Douglas W. Green EdD “We have an educational system stuck in the “this is the way we do it” mode. We need some district to get out of the box…”

    2. Lyn Hilt “The more schools that share their ideas, the more we all will benefit! I also like the idea of “un-schooling” school. Too often I think we design schools and run our classrooms because that’s what “school” is supposed to be.”
    ~ We really alienate a lot of students doing this, don’t we?

    3. Aviva (@grade1) “How do we give students even more ownership over their learning?”
    ~ I wish this was one of the questions I asked in my post… an excellent contribution!

    4. Heidi “…the two most important questions are “why?” and “why not?””
    ~ How do we get our students to continually ask these questions?

    5. Dale Jarvis “You have motivated me to find more ways to think and act differently… to un-school our school.” :-)

    6. Lisa Read “Posts like these upset me….because for me it’s a Question Everything, Answer Nothing/Change Nothing.”
    ~ This point was the inspiration behind my last post ‘On being an agent of change’.

    7. John M. Hudson “It saddens me to think that my daughters may go to a school where the ultimate goal is for them to become ‘proficient’ on a state test.”
    ~ Being Canadian, I had to look up what AYP meant. Great message to your staff and an inspiration to others that ‘permit’ (even pressure) teachers to teach to the test.

    8. Kevin “When standardized testing became a multi billion dollar business it became part of the curriculum.”
    ~ A sad but very true statement, I would argue that textbook companies are also doing their best to slow down the speed of change. My painfully slow Internet won’t let me load the video you linked to yet… but thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to watch it!

    9. Robert Ryhske “I have copied them and will share them with my administrative teams at schools that I work with…”
    ~ Way to be a positive ripple… together we’ll make waves! ;-)

    10. Steve Guditus “…how can we transfer our questions and hopes for reform to those that can make the changes?”
    ~ I’d argue that in many ways, ‘WE’ are the ones who have to make some of the key changes happen, and ‘WE’ need to constantly, and from many angles, voice our ideas to those ‘above’ us. Also, thanks for sharing this gem to add to my questions above:
    “What skills, aptitudes, and knowledge do our students need to succeed and survive in the coming years?”

    11. Cheryl Barnard “…if we want to see MORE or see CHANGE in this next year, in our students, in our classroom and in our learning communities – we need to be pondering these questions, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel.”

    Thanks you all again, I appreciate learning with and from you!
    ~Dave.

  13. David,

    Well said and yes, there is A LOT of work to do, if we are to break the strangle hold and stagnant flow of the present mind set/paradigm about what school is.

    I would have liked to have linked Zimmerman’s great article in the NYT Review of books this year – “What is school for?” but unfortunately, you have to pay to read it! And that seems to be the brunt of the problem – school has become a business concern. Really and truly, it is full of entrenched interests that want their piece of the pie and only as an after thought, children to learn. I think and cheerlead for a return to a common narrative of school being where we come together and tell a common story – that of creating a citizen, a good person and those who believe in the greater good. Not as now, where school is – “a factory where we raise useful economic units”.

    I also think, like you suggest, that the purpose of focus of education should be on learning – and with acceptance of the many ways this can happen.

    I noted MLK Jr. in the video. Here’s his rallying cry – one I wish for more of in our hardened society. We need an MLK Jr. today, one who might return to us the proper narrative and thread through which our school might weave its proper coat.
    http://www.thekingcenter.org/DrumMajor.swf

    Cheers,

    David

  14. Pingback: “The” Test Right Now Is Not To Think About “The Test” « Recycle Your Reads

  15. Lynda Kelly says:

    Thnx for the post and conversation. Museums have been thinking about focussing on learning for many decades now and although we’ve come a long way, many of your points relate to the state of museum education today. In their favour I do think museums are thinking cleverly about technology however. I blogged my ideas here: http://web1.australianmuseum.net.au/BlogPost/Teacher-Talk/Question-Everything

  16. Brian Kuhn says:

    Hi Dave – interesting questions. I think it would be even more interesting if your next post tried to answer some of them… perhaps think about how you would value status quo vs something different. Thinking different is okay but not always the right answer. I think we can become obsessed with change sometimes when what we have is just what we need. I’m not suggesting that change isn’t a good thing sometimes but I’m wondering if we pursue it sometimes for its own sake. Just wondering… how might you answer some of your questions? And how might you rationalize your answers?

    Good post – pushes thinking.

  17. [...] Dave Truss’ latest post Question Everything poses a list of interesting questions those in the education space could ask themselves. In general I think it is right to question, everything, especially given the scarcity of our resources of both time, materials, and money. I know that in my work I need to be more consistent in doing this. In leading a technology portfolio, it’s easy to be seduced into “upgrading”, “adding new”, etc., just because or because people want the latest thing, etc. But, I think we, I, need to get better at asking “why?” [...]

  18. Dave Truss says:

    David,
    I love your idea of a narrative… I’m a huge fan of storytelling and I think there needs to be new myths and quests that help us discover our new way. The title of the link to this post that came after your comment tells the current story, “The” Test Right Now Is Not To Think About “The Test”, but that’s not the story I want for my kids.
    Thanks for the link to the MLK Jr. speech… wonderful and uplifting!

    Lynda,
    I love how you applied the same questions to museums! I especially liked the addition of this question, “Why not address cross-curricula ‘big issues’ in programs?” Interestingly enough, I think the answers you come up with could really help schools and classrooms!

    Brian,
    Great point! Related to my comment to David: ‘change’ can’t be our new story. I’m not sure I’m necessarily answering my own questions, but my next post: ‘Less is more. Teach less, learn more.’ has some pretty good ideas about what kinds of changes we need… seems a good story to follow comes from Finland! Having worked with you, I know that you often ask the right questions, just as you did in your comment above. (Great post too!)

  19. Pingback: Less is more. Teach less, learn more. | Connected Principals | David Truss

  20. LMS says:

    Nice article and video. Your reflective questions are pertinent to all educators at the start of a new year. We need a BIG paradigm shift if we are to bridge the gap between our curricula, institutions and learners. Questioning traditional practice in education settings is good start.

  21. Mayra says:

    We need to develop the collaboration sense to share and see the alternatives for changes in our curriculum, as a positive renovation. The changes could develop an active faculty. They need comprehend that they are a continuous learning community. We learn every day new things. We need to learn and work with connectivity, social networks, the purpose is produce knowledge, develop collective intelligence. Resolve the basics will be the principal goal. Our students need to: write and talk correctly, learn to talk in front of a group of people and we can use the technology to develop those basics things. A computer class can’t resolve the problem with videos, word processors, etc. The system needs the collaboration and integration of the curriculum in school. The technology is a complement. The student stimuli in the present generation are different. The faculty needs to be prepared to modify the student’s technology knowledge. The technology can’t change education paradigm. The teenager needs to know if he has a car and press the gas pedal the car accelerates, and the speed increases and can cause a car crash in other hand if he has a car he can travel to learn and see new things. So we can teach to give them the correct knowledge. The tools of the actual generation, digital natives are different is not a text book, blackboard, white board, etc. Is creating connections all the time, we need to demonstrates the correct connections to increase their knowledge in a positive way. We need to work with cyber codes to demonstrate that Internet has controls. The technology is our friend if you can use it in wisdom manner.
    My principal language is Spanish. Excuse any mistake.
    Gracias.

  22. Dave Truss says:

    Mayra,
    The thought and time that you took to write this comment in an alternate language to your first language is greatly appreciated! I like your car/driving metaphor, a car is a tool that we need to ensure that young adults know how to use wisely, and the same is true for the internet and many of the new tools that are available to students today!
    Thanks again,
    ~Dave.

  23. Dale Jarvis (@vicdale) says:

    I was motivated to take action to change the status quo in my classroom… first day back after Christmas break I told the kids about the professional learning I had been doing with social media, and about the need to question everything. After much discussion, including some very interesting comments about “the real world”, we agreed to move out student desks and move in tables to encourage free flow seating throughout the day. We love it! Thanks for challenging teachers and administrators to think differently and take action – even small steps. Hmm… what to try next! BTW – Our change provoked lots of positive conversation amongst staff.

  24. Dave Truss says:

    Dale,
    How inspiring to read this after your first comment! Wow! :-)

    I have been thinking and questioning a lot recently as demonstrated in my post, (and like this, great comments that follow), Less is more. Teach less, learn more.

    But… I really have not gone into the classrooms with a ‘Question everything’ attitude since returning to school from the break. I’m going to be visiting classes today with some ‘new eyes’ thanks to your comment.

    Thank you!
    ~Dave.

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  28. alexander says:

    I think you’ll find the answers to these questions are in the answers which institutions and school boards will give:

    – bureaucracy:
    ‘that’s just (not) how it’s done’

    – standardisation & ‘fairness’
    ‘if we did that, we’d have to do it so for EVERYONE, everywhere’
    ‘can we…well… grade it?’

    – costs
    ‘it’s not within our budget’

    – coordination
    ‘we don’t have staff numbers for that kind of set-up’
    ‘is it manageable, controllable?’

    So, how WOULD these wonderful ideas work, without having to change the whole concept and system of education?
    …You just couldn’t.

  29. Pingback: Challenging the Status Quo | Connected Principals

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