This post is Part 1 of a blog series on learning renovation.
It’s time to renovate education, not reform it. For decades, public education in the United States has been under the microscope. From scathing reports such as A Nation at Risk (1983) to laws such as No Child Left Behind (2001) requiring annual yearly progress and sanctions for schools not making the grade, it has always been about reform.
I believe we have it all wrong. Public education has good bones, just as a house that needs renovating. We shouldn’t demolish a structure when we have a strong foundation on the premise that education is the bedrock of our democracy and free to all. Do we need to make some changes? Can we improve on current practice? Should we modernize our instruction to meet the needs of future-ready learners? The answer to all of these questions is YES. But there is a fundamental difference in renovating our practices versus reforming the public education system.
- To restore to good condition; make new or as if new again; repair.
- To reinvigorate; refresh; revive.
In a renovation, we are modernizing, refurbishing, reconstructing, improving, remodeling, and updating. I want to honor the knowledge and expertise we as educators bring to the work with the idea of renovating what we already have to make it even more effective and engaging for the students we serve. We also need to think about functionality. The reason for modernizing our instruction is to better meet the needs of our students.
To help our students become future-ready means we will most likely need to change or enhance some of our practices. To prepare them for a rapidly changing future, we need to equip them with competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and the ability to communicate big ideas. Sound pedagogy must be our foundation. And the renovation we undertake must be to better prepare our students for solving the complex problems our world will face in the next 5, 10, or 20 years.
So, where do we start? Here are three steps to consider as you plan, implement, and monitor your own learning renovation. This post will focus on Step 1 and is the first in a series.
Step 1: Create a construction plan (simplify and focus).
Step 2: Monitor the building process (walkthroughs and feedback).
Step 3: Invest in the work crew (collective teacher efficacy).
Evaluate the 4 P's: Programs, Practices, Processes, and Policies
The first element of a great plan is to consider what we can remove before we start building. Research shows there is an inverse relationship between the number of priorities we pursue and their effectiveness in accelerating student learning or changing behaviors. The more priorities, the less effective each one turns out to be. Often, less is more. Do a few things really well and you will see results—guaranteed!
So, let’s consider the 4 P’s: the programs, practices, processes, and policies currently being implemented in your classroom or school. Write them on Post-It notes. On a piece of chart paper, recreate the four quadrants shown in the figure below. Take a moment to reflect on whether each of the 4 P’s listed on your Post-It notes is having a positive impact on student learning. Using the y-axis, determine whether you have any evidence of impact on student learning or behaviors. If yes, determine if the impact is low or high. Next, think about the evidence of professional impact from low to high using the x-axis. Consider whether each of the 4 P’s is implemented with fidelity. Are we “all in,” and do we have the capacity to implement each P (time, space, funding, and professional knowledge/expertise)?