Big Paradigm Shifts

Several weeks ago, Matt Guthrie and I decided to pre-load #Edchat with entries on our blogs. Last week Chad Sansing and I did the same. They each call it the pregame show, so I’m going to begin to use that language as well. 🙂 In the conversation on my blog about grading, though, Matt Townsley stated that, “Allowing new evidence of learning to replace the old is a big paradigm shift.” Since then, I have been thinking about the big paradigm shifts we need to undergo to really change our schools.

I  lived Educon last weekend, participating in some amazing conversations.  I encourage you all to go to the Educon site and live through the conversations vicariously, and join in any way you can. I’ve also been exploring some Edutopia links (thanks to a tweet I read sometime this past week) and am also involved in an online eTeacher course through my county while I’ve basically been at home snowbound!

So I’ve had lots of time to think, reflect and the question I’ve been thinking about since Matt’s comment is

What are the big paradigm shifts that need to happen for education to be most meaningful for students?

In the past week or so, lots of people way smarter than me have put proposals out there based on Educon conversations or Twitter interactions or life experiences. Some of the suggestions I have seen include

  1. Teaching kids HOW to think, rather than “to think critically.” (Thanks to Kevin Washburn.)
  2. Students graduating with a resume rather than a transcript (Thanks to Ken Bernstein)
  3. The link between inquiry and care-Chris Lehmann’s reflection from Educon
  4. Teachers encouraging their students to evaluate them ( (Teacher Gets A Report Card from Deven Black)
  5. from a new hashtag #rbrc (rubric without the vowels)
  • Students designing assessments for learning
  • Students designing their own learning plans
  • Students creating rubrics
  • Students pursuing their passions and being taught how to do so (research, etc.)
  • Community supported inquiry–learning from each other

A visual from Kathy Sierra that I found from reading Pair-aDimes for Your Thoughts from David Truss


Then, in my Edutopia reading, I saw this:

“Today’s students will enter a job market that values skills and abilities far different from the traditional workplace talents that so ably served their parents and grandparents. They must be able to crisply collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then conduct targeted research and work with others to employ that newfound knowledge. In essence, students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.”

Okay, I don’t think the people I interact with on Twitter and #Edchat would argue too much with that statement. I think all the parts and pieces listed above it could fairly easily be included in learning experiences that allowed students to do the things listed in that quote. I also think about my student who clearly showed MY emphasis when she made a “Cool Math Words” page on her wiki–look at the first word.

So, I proposed the following question to #EdChat :

What should be the essential learnings that students get from attending school?

(and maybe “attending school” should be “our lessons” so it would read

“What should be the essential learnings our students get from our lessons?”)

I’d like to see what others think and what you’d add to that quote.

And, beyond that, what would lessons look like if we designed them so that they clearly showed what we value in education?

19 thoughts on “Big Paradigm Shifts

  1. I haven’t yet seen it in teacherese, but one of the problems we have with education is that it is disruptive to human relationship. One reason students with strong parental support succeed is not that parents promote schooling by helping with homework, etc., but that parents provide the lifelong conversations that help kids make sense of human relationships, contextual clues, etc.
    I believe a child can learn from almost anything if someone WHO KNOWS HIM is there to discuss it and help him connect new learning to the familiar. Waldorf schools are onto something when they assign one teacher to the same class for 6 or more years. There are already lots of successful models for education. Let’s really look at why they succeed and what kind of adults (not test-taking child stars) they produce.

  2. Elaine, that is what Chris Lehmann speaks to in his reflections on Educon, connecting inquiry and care. He advocates that simply asking kids “What do you think?” _and actively listening and responding as they talk-is the connector. I believe it certainly would be for those kids who don’t have the parents you speak of above.

    Thanks for joining in the conversation–hope to see you at #EdChat this week.

  3. The new paradigm we need is not a change in schools, but their replacement with new arrangements for learning. Mass schooling is a technology that emerged in the 19th century. It is not “as old as the hills”. It has outlived its usefulness.

    Kids will of course need access to adults, and maybe even access to teachers. But they need access to those who can help them grow; and these folks also need access to kids. “School” is a word that stands for the denial of these forms of access.

  4. Perhaps I’m being too simplistic, but when I read. “What should be the essentials learnings our students get from our lessons?”
    I think, ‘…That learning is fun, and it is a lifelong endeavor that should extend beyond classrooms and fixed deadlines.’

  5. Leonard,
    I don’t disagree that we need to replace the traditional thinking about arrangements for learning. I do think, though, that there will always need to be a place for (at least some) kids to go for learning, if not only because our economy demands that, especially for children whose parents work. I beleive ti to be true also because “public schools” are so engrained in our society. Please see David Jakes presentation resources on Learning Spaces from Educon at for more thought-provoking resources.

  6. Hi, David,
    In #EdChat last week, there were folks arguing that students need to memorize some core content to be educated adults–and some were advocating for memorizing the capitals of the 52 states (in the US). I believe there is some content we may need to memorize but state capitals is NOT one of those important pieces for me.

    Love your response. . learning SHOULD be fun (and at times frustrating, and perhaps perplexing), satisfying, empowering, meaningful, challenging, stretching, and collaborative and lots more, depending on the context.

    For similar viewpoints to yours, check out and look at Learning as a Hobby and When’s the Last Time You Learned Something From a Textbook?

    Thanks for engaging!


  7. Paula,
    I agree that some parents will need to find a day care center for their children. But this can be a learning center, or a neighbor’s home with internet access. The normative expectation that this must be “school” is the barrier to the change in learning arrangements now required. As Buckminster Fuller said, a classroom is the worst imaginable place to be learning something. If kids will need a resume rather than a transcript, as one wise respondant at EDUCON said, then they will need a place to do something, to contribute, to participate, to collaborate. A classroom is the name for a place where these things are prohibited.

  8. I think you highlight many of the important qualities of education for the future. Two phrases called to me in the Edutopia quote that you included, “work with others to employ that newfound knowledge”, and “students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.” We must model “how to work with others” to apply our learning to solving real-life problems. I am not so sure that our current “curricula” provide enough opportunities for kids to learn how to talk through disagreements, learn from others’ opinions and gain appreciation for each other as diverse human beings. We must also teach kids how to be flexible and resilient so that they can respond to an “endlessly changing” environment. Our current system seems to promote the very opposite as it struggles to maintain control and order while supposedly supporting the idea of student engagement. As I write this, I have even more questions about how we can create these educational environments that are also flexible enough to respond to the changes occurring in the world outside the classroom.
    I like the question you ended with and would suggest that we also ask the question: What do we need to know about our students so that we can give them the “essential learning” to be prepared for life? We can only give them what they need if we can also see through their eyes and consider the lens and schema they bring to school with them. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  9. Joan,
    I agree with you that as teachers we have to learn to “see through their eyes and consider the lens and schema they bring to school with them” so long as we and they are in school.

    But I do not agree that we can “give them the essential learnings they need.”

    Learning is something that students do, by experiencing, by trying and failing, even (rarely) by studying. It is NOT something we do, or even can, “give them”.

  10. What should be the essentials learnings our students get from our lessons?”

    Maybe our real goal is to have students decide the essential learnings from our lessons. That may be the definition of empowered learners. Maybe its our modelling of the learning act…. “how to learn” “power comes from learning” “learning can be fun, challenging, hard work” etc… that is the lesson.

  11. Hi Paula,
    There is a very fundamental paradigm shift that I sense is happening in the classrooms/schools I get really excited about. What I want for students is relevant, empowered learning within a socially supportive context – and that happens when the adults in the room have given up the societal tendency to put children in a place of “contempt”.

    This is the paradigm shift that needs to happen, not only in schools, but in society in general. When I reflect on currently accepted parenting (and traditional teaching) approaches and practices, so much of it has to do with controlling how kids act, what they feel, how they speak – and making them do it the way we (as adults) think they need to in order to “succeed” in this world. So much of our definition of success (in that context) has to do with our own issues, fears and experiences, rather than a true sense of how human beings successfully interact! We have way too many years of believing that children are the blank slate for us to write upon – when I believe being around children shows that they come into this world with so much to give!!

    When we realize that we have as much to learn FROM our children as we have to teach TO them, the dynamic changes, doesn’t it? And the classroom changes to a place for co-learning to take place – for the teacher to be the guide and mentor, yet to be open to truly listening and learning with the kids! When we realize that “giving up” control in the classroom doesn’t have to result in an “out of control” classroom, then students learn how to take increasing steps towards empowered, lifelong learning.

    And ultimately, I believe that this shift in education is the doorway to changing the entire societal approach to raising children – modeling respectful and unconditional relationships between all adults and children. Learning communities where parents and teachers work together with a singular focus on the best for children provide powerful learning opportunities, not only for the students, but collectively for the entire community!

    I believe these are exciting times! 🙂

  12. Not in my classroom:

    and I think not in others as well. For me, it’s not about day care, it’s not about classrooms as they are, but about learning spaces where kids can collaborate and work together or alone–it’s about providing them the watering holes, the caves and the fireside opportunities to learn.

  13. What do we need to know about them? That’s what Chris Lehmann speaks to in his post, What do you think? mentioned above.

    And, I agree wholeheartedly we HAVE to, as you say, “provide opportunities to learn how to talk through disagreements, learn from others’ opinions and gain appreciation for each other as diverse human beings. We must also teach kids how to be flexible and resilient so that they can respond to an “endlessly changing” environment.”

    Great comment, thanks!

  14. Wow, Heidi, you speak to societal changes occuring through listening to-and honoring- children as people first, not our duplicates, or little ones to be molded in our (or society’s accepted) likeness.

    Let’s bash down that door and leap through that doorway!

  15. Leonard,
    I was merely quoting the author when I said “give them the essential learnings they need.” Perhaps I should have said something more along the lines that I think there are essential skills that kids will need to navigate the world. Getting along with others, navigating differences in opinions, evaluating information and many other skills will be required for them to succeed. Perhaps we don’t “give these” but we foster environments where kids can “gain them.” Thanks for helping me be more specific in my language.

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