The Best Worst Solution

In January 2013 over 100 leaders from around the world gather together to discuss the future of education. These leaders represented museums, libraries, K-12 and higher education. They gathered to discuss what Jeff Conklin of CogNexus Institute says are ‘”wicked problems,” issues that are extremely difficult and even seemingly impossible to solve because of the complex or ever-changing environments in which they arise.” These “wicked problems” were focused on six areas of education: rethink what it means to teach, and reinvent everything about teaching, reimagine online learning, allow failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success, make innovation part of the learning ethic, and preserve the digital expressions of our culture and knowledge. ”

Wicked Problems_0

To help this group of leaders answer a few questions some classmates and I have deceived to take on one of the areas and give our best worst solution to the problem of reinventing everything about teaching. Following is our script and video.

The Best Worst Solution

By Alicia Sansing, Joie Marinao & McKenzie Wallace

When we first imagined Reinventing Everything about Teaching, we quickly realized that the “wicked” part of the problem was rooted in the immensity of HOW much we could reinvent. SO. We took a step back and thought about how we could maximize change in all areas by affecting something specifically. That something was Professional Development. Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.24.49 PM

Professional Development (PD) is defined as relevant and  job-oriented, additional training. When PD is done well, teaching and professional practice is improved, which then in turn maximizes student mastery and success. Since that is the ultimate goal of this field, it is a good place to start our problem solving. However, in reality, Professional Development is not always executed successfully. In our research, we found that: 51% of our sample group acquires 0-3 hours of PD per month, and 33% get 4-6 hours. The majority also reported that their PD was usually done via traditional lecture and delivered by administration. Last, of this same sample group, 37% reported that they neither agreed nor disagreed that their PD was effective, but 45% stated that they thought their PD was ineffective.

The implications for this are HUGE.

From evaluating the data we found that it suggests a communication gap that is stalling the professional growth of our educators. To solve the communication gap it is necessary to have a place to raise awareness, start conversations, realize hidden problems, find collaborators, change minds, and make a difference.

The better use of each individual’s professional learning network might offer these factors. A professional learning network is a curated collection of relationships that benefits the collector professionally. These can include peers, colleagues, mentors, and even superiors. This network can be curated face to face, or electronically.

These collected resources are an invaluable source for PD because this becomes a reciprocal relationship that works organically to crossover between benefactor and beneficiary. This network feeds itself in a way, and adapts to suit the everchanging needs of the users.

James Paul Gee, a well known researcher, describes what he terms “affinity spaces”, a space where groups of people are drawn together because of a shared strong interest or engagement in a common activity. This can be virtual or physical, where informal learning takes place. The breakdown in communication exists between who is in charge of designing professional development and the educators who are receiving this PD.

Because this problem isn’t wicked enough, we thought of an extension that would be great for consideration while Professional Development is being addressed. Why don’t we make PD and mentorship programs actually matter? Whether it is PD accomplishments or mentoring achievements, there is not currently a fully functional model of assessment that capitalizes on the current needs of educators.

The current model of feedback is either non-existent, not applicable, not easily applied, and rarely individualized.

What if PD was flipped on a regular basis and delivered through a multimodal menu of choices?  What if you formed a scholarly, professional, and academic mindset as a district through this process? What if…

Alicia’s Reflection Blog

Through this process of facing a “wicked” problem I was pushed to the brink, almost a breaking point, but not quite, within myself and within a group. We discussed, wrote and rewrote our conclusions. Came up with one possible “best worst solution” then as planning, storyboarding, talking, discussing, and some strong disagreement we found what I actually feel it a great “best worst solution.” I love the story that we have told and the information that we relay in our solution to this “wicked” problem.

Through the process of researching “wicked” problems in education, and seeing that there are many, I am going to return to work this fall and look into a school or district comity that I will be able to sit on and have a say in some policy that is made for me, fellow educators and students within my school district. I am going to spread the word about Professional Learning Networks and that they need to be created and maintained. That if we as educators want to have more of a say in what happens in education we need to make sure that we are communicating our needs and wants.

The first PD I lead will be on Professional Learning Networks.

Resources:

Becker, S. (2013, February 25). Sparking innovation, learning and creativity.. The Communiqué from the 2013 Future of Education Summit. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from http://www.nmc.org/news/communique-2013-future-education-summit

Paul, J.P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era . New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

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