Areas of Interest

My main interest is helping school systems to transform from the Industrial-Age, time-based, sorting-focused paradigm to the learner-centered paradigm that empowers and intrinsically motivates students through personalized, project-based learning where student progress is based on learning rather than on time.



There are two kinds of knowledge that are needed to help school systems to transform: the ends and means.

ENDS OF PARADIGM CHANGE

The Learner-Centered Paradigm -- Knowledge about what the learner-centered paradigm should be like.

 

There are three focuses of my work here:

  1. Changes in the instructional and assessment systems, which entail changes in the roles of teachers, students, and parents

  2. Changes in the roles of technology

  3. Changes in the organizational structure of school systems

 

See below for descriptions of each.

Instruction and Assessment in the New Paradigm

The Information Age has brought us new educational needs, new knowledge about how people learn best, and new tools to help people learn. Together, they make new methods of instruction necessary and possible.

 

One-size-fits-all instruction is being replaced by personalized instruction.  This requires a change from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction, from time-based to attainment-based student progress, and from assessments that compare students with each other to ones that compare each student to a standard.

 

This requires a change in roles. The teacher is a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage.  The student is an active and self-diected learner.  And technology supports student learning more than teacher teaching. 

 

Collaborative projects provide a meaningful context for personalized tutorials in which student assessments are integrated.

Technology in the New Paradigm

To support the learner-centered paradigm of education, technology must serve four major roles.

 

Planning for student learning entails developing a personal learning plan for every student, with the student, parents, and teacher all having a say.  The plan includes learning goals and projects to meet those goals.

 

Instruction for student learning entails providing 1) a project environment, complete with project management and support tools, and 2) tutorial support similar to the Khan Academy that provides explanations and practice with immediate feedback, just in time for use in the project.

Assessment for student learning entails evaluating student mastery through practice 'til perfect.  This performance-based assessment is integrated into the tutorial support, to ensure individual mastery while no time is wasted on separate tests.

 

Recordkeeping for student learning entails providing a map of attainments that are checked off for each student upon mastery.

MEANS OF PARADIGM CHANGE

The Transformation Process -- Knowledge about how to help school systems to get from here to there.

 

​There are three focuses of my work here:

  1. The school-level transformation process (which must be a charter or private school, because schools in a district do not have the freedom to make fundamental changes)

  2. The district-level transformation process, which includes the school level (and must be in a small school district or a large district that creates a small "charter district" within it)

  3. The state-level transformation process, which includes the district level

 

See below for descrioptions of each.  Since there is so much overlap among these three areas, I have combined publications for all three:

 

School-Level Transformation Process

The following are some fundamental principles of the paradigm change process (explained in detail in Reinventing Schools):

 

  • Mindset change. The process must place top priority on helping teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other community members to evolve their mental models about education.

  • Consensus. Decisions in the change process need to be made by building consensus through learning together and not by a win-or-lose vote system or administrative mandates.

  • Stakeholder ownership. The process must facilitate broad stakeholder ownership in order to engender true commitment, reduce resistance, and enhance sustainability.

  • Invention. The process must include creating innovative school designs. Invention should consider and build upon what pioneering educators have already created elsewhere.

  • Ideal design. The process must help stakeholders to think in the ideal about their new educational system.

  • Leadership and political support. The process must have support and leadership from all formal and informal leaders in the district. The autocratic paradigm of leadership must be replaced by servant leadership, which builds a shared vision and supports all stakeholders in pursuit of it.

  • Readiness, capacity, and culture. A culture of empowerment, inclusion, consensus-building, collaboration, systems thinking, trust, disclosure, and no blame is necessary for the transformation process. Other aspects of readiness include knowing how to think about systems, engage in ideal design, make consensus-based decisions, operate as part of a group process, and understand the concepts of continuous improvement and sustainability.

  • Systemic leverage. The most impactful structural changes should be made first and then allow the remaining changes to emerge naturally over time.

  • Change process expertise. An experienced and impartial facilitator must guide the change process, and the role of this facilitator gradually transitions from facilitator to advisor as internal capicity is built.

  • Time and money. Individuals need to be available to participate in activities and discussions that help them to shift their mindsets, invent a new system, and implement the changes. And time is money.

  • Technology. Hardware and software are needed to support customization of student instruction and empower students and teachers to become more autonomous and self-directed.

 

Organizational Structure in the New Paradigm

Paradigm change is fundamental, total change.  It is not piecemeal.  Paradigms of transportation include the horse, boat, train, car, and airplane. They are fundamentally different from each other.  One cannot be gradually transformed into another.  

 

In education, the predominant paradigm has changed only once in modern societies.  It changed from the one-room schoolhouse to the current "factory model" of schools when society changed from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age.  Now in the Information Age, we find that the paradigm of education must change again.  

Since students learn at different rates, the paradigm must change from student progress based on time to student progress based on learning.  Thus standardization must give way to customization.

District-Level Transformation Process

The two major phases of the process are 1) for a district-level leadership team to create a broadly shared ideal vision for the school district and 2) for the leadership team to help schools that are at the highest levels of readiness to engage in the school-level transformation process (i.e., to develop a more detailed ideal vision that is aligned with the district vision and to develop a strategic plan for evloving their school toward their vision.

State-Level Transformation Process

The two major phases of the process are: 1) for a state-level leadership team to create a broadly shared ideal vision for schools and districts and 2) for the leadership team to create laws and policies to establish a state-level organization responsible for helping school districts that are at the highest levels of readiness to engage in the districtl-level transformation process.