Wednesday, February 22, 2017

'Why?' Questions to Reform Education

I just finished reading A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, and it really made me think about how I use questions with our school community to solicit feedback about how we can do things better. Berger's "Why? What Now? How?" process makes sense and validates what Simon Sinek explains in "The Golden Circle" that knowing why we do something give us purpose to do what we do. Both Berger and Sinek provide examples of people or companies that started with why? to provide products or services that may not have existed a few years ago. Coincidentally, I visited with Ian Kitajima at Oceanit last week, and their innovation company lives this idea of asking why?questions and seeking solutions to problems.

Today, I read an article about Finland's educational success. It was written in 2011, but the "lessons" shared by Pasi Dahlberg are still applicable today in 2017. In fact, perhaps they are even more relevant.

I was hoping that the Berger book would include a chapter on "Questioning for Education" but it only included a chapter on "Questioning for Business" and "Questioning for Life." So as I reflected on the present or upcoming transitions at the national and state level and the changes I have seen in my nearly 44 years as an educator, I want to pose these why? questions for education. I don't have the answers, but I believe that these are questions we might explore if we want to make the kinds of changes that are necessary to prepare our children to inherit a world where they can make a difference. Here are some of my why? questions:
  • Why are schools so "traditional" and why is it so hard to change?
  • Why aren't we looking at different models to build and/or upgrade our schools to the 21st century (e.g. business or university partnerships)? 
  • Why can't developers build schools for the areas they are developing?
  • Why do we need standardized report cards to tell us how a student is doing in school? What do grades really tell us about a student? 
  • Why do we need standardized tests? What do these tests really tell us that we didn't already know about a student?
  • Why do we have grade level standards? What would be a better way of collecting evidences of student progress - where they started and where they are now - as opposed to where we say they need to be by the end of a grade level?
  • If we value innovation and diversity, why are we so intent on standardizing education?
  • Why do we keep talking about school reform? When will we stop talking and do something amazing that will keep our teachers excited about teaching and our kids excited about learning?
  • Why aren't educators valued in the United States as they are in other countries?
And my most important why? question is:  If we say that the 'children are our future,' why aren't we willing to invest in that future?

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