Our 2019 Moonshot in Education: 3 Things to Work on This Year

Moonshot Education

The best way to predict the future is to create it. —Peter Drucker

When President John F. Kennedy delivered a 1962 speech in Houston, Texas, motivating Americans to support the mission to land a man on the moon, he stated, “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” The sense of urgency his speech invoked—to explore new frontiers, to embrace innovation, and to create our own destiny—resulted in the successful Apollo 11 mission.

Educators: As we consider our 2019 goals, now is the time to take our shot at going to the moon. A moonshot is firmly focused on the future and will drive your organization to realize what is possible by addressing a problem, proposing a solution, and leveraging resources and best thinking to achieve the goal. Below I’ve laid out three key moonshot areas that, based on their impact for student learning, engagement, and growth, I encourage us to embrace for 2019 and beyond. We are creating the future, one child at a time.

1. Deeper Learning for ALL

To better prepare students for the future, we need to focus on the competencies and skills that will be required for success in college, career, and life. The Future of Jobs report, published by the World Economic Forum, outlines the top 10 skills needed for 2020 graduates, and at the top of the list is complex problem solving.

We must move beyond the rush to cover content for a standardized test and instead design deeper learning experiences where all students are provided opportunities to grapple with big ideas, challenges, and issues. These experiences must not be reserved for the gifted students or those who are taking higher level coursework. Learning experiences that are authentic, relevant, and involve real-world problem solving should be the foundation of our curriculum.

The design is first and foremost standards-based and leverages eight design principles to create a learner-centered instructional model. We need to reimagine the learning experience, environment, and culture to focus on higher expectations for all students to become not just ready to thrive in the future but also truly ready for anything!

2. Social-Emotional Learning

It is hard to consider social-emotional learning a moonshot, as it is more of a moral imperative. But I list it as a moonshot because it is a long-term goal that requires us to reconsider our role as educators. We have always been focused on academics, but we now have to more intentionally balance addressing the well-being of our students. Weaving social and emotional learning into the fabric of our schools is just the beginning and addresses, in large part, the foundation of relationships and connecting with each student. We must educate the heart and the mind to help students navigate the world more effectively.

Social Emotional Learning

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides a framework for addressing five core competencies needed to be successful in school and beyond. Explicitly teaching, modeling, and providing opportunities for guided practice develops skills into competencies that students can use in any given situation. These are not simply once a week advisement lessons. They must be integrated into lessons throughout the day, week, or year and impact the overall school culture, for both students and staff.

Our students are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation. We have to consider social-emotional learning on a continuum. The five competencies above address the needs of all students, similar to Tier I core instruction, but we need to equip our faculties to address more pressing needs. Students who have experienced trauma or those who are not mentally well need a different level of support.

This is not a skillset taught in colleges of education, and it cannot be solved in schools alone. This is an all-hands-on-deck issue and requires communities to conduct a resource roundup to determine where students can receive services such as evaluations, residential care, crisis counseling, and more. It requires that educators know and recognize signs that students are in need and have a plan to swiftly respond. Focus on why we became educators; for most of us, it was for our love of children. Our love of content and teaching came second. Let’s put those back in the right order once again—Maslow before Bloom’s. Placing the basic needs of our students first will accelerate the learning.

3. Becoming Efficacious Educators

Teaching has never been as challenging as it is today. While we are learner-centered organizations, we need to invest more in the work of our educators. Research clearly indicates that the more teachers believe their collective work has impact, the better the results are for our learners. This assertion is supported by a 1.57 effect size for collective teacher efficacy (CTE) that is three times more powerful than socioeconomic status (0.52) and two times more powerful that prior achievement (0.65). (See the full table below, with data courtesy of research by John Hattie.)

Collective teacher efficacy1.57
Self-reported grades / student expectations1.44
Teacher-student relationships0.72
Prior achievement0.65
Socioeconomic status0.52
Home environment0.52
Parental involvement0.49
Concentration / persistence / engagement0.48

There are three areas that I believe need our continued focus:

  • Instructional coaching: Professional athletes have coaches, so why not professional educators? The benefit of coaching is providing feedback and modeling needed to improve our craft. All teachers and leaders need and deserve a coach that focuses on their personal growth and development. The return on investment is improved high-quality teachers and leaders.
  • Professional learning design: It’s not just about the time for learning; it’s also about the learning experience. Just as the student learning experience must be designed for impact, so too should the adult learning experience. We need to create collaborative environments where innovation and risk-taking are valued—where teachers can design, deliver, and reflect on what works and what needs revision.
  • Educator self-care: Teaching and leading is hard work. Often, we deal with the same hardships as our students. We must create balance and promote the well-being of the adults in our organizations. We can’t serve students when our own cup is empty. Help staff create a self-care plan and offer strategies for balancing life and work. A few ideas include creating staff check-ins, promoting mindfulness, and offering wellness PD.

So, what will be your moonshot in education? How will you embrace 2019 and beyond?

Your impact as an educator knows no measure. Be BOLD, be BRAVE, and be AWESOME!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


You can book a keynote with blog contributor Dr. Lissa Pijanowski, Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education, to bring her expertise to your school or district. You can also view our full list of thought leaders who provide customized presentations on a range of key education issues.

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