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Inspiring Education…the Solution?

October 2, 2013

In 2008, Alberta’s premier, Ed Stelmach, asked then Education Minister Dave Hancock to lead a project to create a long-term vision for teaching and learning in the province. The result of this project was Inspiring Education: A Dialogue with Albertans which encapsulated the vision for the future of education (http://education.alberta.ca/department/ipr/inspiringeducation.aspx). This document has been recognized around the globe as a progressive and innovative step for education. Given that my posts have focused on excellence in teaching and the creation of authentic learning experiences for students, I felt it appropriate to look at what the government of Alberta hopes education will look like.

The vision of the Inspiring Education framework is to help youth become engaged thinkers and ethical citizens who possess an entrepreneurial spirit. These students will be encouraged to think critically and use inquiry in a interdisciplinary approach to solve problems. They will be encouraged to use technology to communicate, create and share their ideas with a wide audience. In addition, students will focus on building relationships which demonstrate respect, empathy and compassion and focus on collaboration. Finally, these students will challenge the status quo and take risks to work through problems. Finally, Inspiring Education mandates that learning and education is a community wide responsibility and that all community members must be engaged in the process.

I find it difficult to argue with the vision of Inspiring Education. The three E’s are what I want for my students and for my children. I want students to be engaged thinkers and use a variety of tools and approaches to solve problems they are presented with. I want them to connect with a wide range of people in a spirit of collaboration. In addition, I want students to be resilient and challenge current thinking – to create solutions and act boldly. While these seem like tall orders for teachers, I don’t believe it needs to be overly complex. What if students were presented with a problem, connected with others to solve that problem, created a solution to their problem, shared their solution, reflected upon the entire process and repeated these steps over and over again? Would that not be a straightforward process of education and would it not meet the vision of Inspiring Educatio? I wish I could take credit for this process but I cannot. I have adapted it from feedback I received from Alec Couros (@courosa; http://www.courosa.ca) and Laurel Beaton (@laurelbeaton; http://www.laurelbeaton.wordpress.com).

Regardless of where the model originated, it is a straightforward process of learning. It can encapsulate the core elements of Inspiring Education. In this model, David Truss’ 7 components of authentic learning come through. If schools/teachers allow students frequent attempts in learning, they will develop the confidence to challenge the status quo and “think outside the box.” In this model there is a greater focus and emphasis on learning, inquiry, and discovery. In addition, this can be an interdisciplinary approach which focuses on competencies and not content.

In May of this year, Alberta’s current Minister of Education, Jeff Johnson signed a ministerial order on student learning which promotes this simple model of education (http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx). As such, it is our responsibility as educators in this province to ensure our practice reflects the Ministerial Order on Student Learning.

So, if we have a relatively straightforward model of learning, a globally recognized vision of learning, and a Ministerial Order on Student Learning which ties this all together, what’s next? We have the framework, the vision and the policy. What do we as teachers, administrators, and community members need to do? I look forward to hearing thoughts and ideas.

Have a great day,

Sean

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12 Comments
  1. Question: What’s next? We have the framework, the vision and the policy. What do we as teachers, administrators, and community members need to do?

    Answer: Get started.

    How? Take baby steps. The goal of Inspiring Education is to describe a student who graduates from school in Alberta in 2020. We some time to dip our toes in the water of change, to test things out, to learn to grow.

    Actually thinking as I write, I think you answered your own question in this blog.

    You wrote that for students to be ethic, engaged and entrepreneurial they should, “presented with a problem, connected with others to solve that problem, created a solution to their problem, shared their solution, reflected upon the entire process and repeated these steps over and over again.”

    Why should the model be any different for teachers?

    Just my thoughts. And thanks for making me think.

    • Laurel, I never thought of it that way so thank you for making me think! Your point is again very straightforward. Why apply a model only with our students. Why not apply it to ourselves and our schools. After all, is that not the essence of reflective teaching practice. Maybe we need to start talking about authentic teaching practice as well as authentic learning.

      Thanks!

  2. Although it seems like a simple and straightforward approach, it is not the knowing that is the issue but the doing. We need to break out of the current 20th century of education that is comfortable and engage, engage and engage! I welcome teachers around Alberta and divisions to get out of the box so that our students can do the same. We need to role model this type of learning so that our own students can see it, feel it and live it.

    • I agree, Chris. The process that I wrote about would work with teachers too. We can use it to foster our own learning and thereby model what we want to see in our students. So what is stopping teachers from “getting out of the box?” Maybe we need to re-imagine the box. Maybe we can start by creating a new Twitter hashtag for people to share how they are implementing the process and modelling Inspiring Education for their students. It could be #ITL: Inspired Teaching and Learning. Thoughts?

  3. TylerF permalink

    Couldn’t agree more that Inspiring Education is the direction that we should be going. Until a classroom, a school, a division or whatever it may be actually takes on the task of implementing a current (useful for our day and age) professional practice and has the fortitude to ride it out for long enough to show its merit, IE will never gain enough traction to take off. With the advances in mobile technology and the instant access to knowledge, our current knowledge-based curriculum is far too 20th century… early 20th century.

    • Tyler,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. You raise some interesting points which prompt questions for me. We both agree that Inspiring Education is a framework that makes sense for the contexts of education in Alberta – indeed, around the world. Your comment brings me back to something Chris Smeaton wrote earlier: “It is not the knowing that is the issue but the doing.” I am wondering what roadblocks and barriers need to be removed in order for the “doing” to take place? You write that we must act with fortitude to ensure we enact the ministerial order and IE long enough to demonstrate merit. What do we need for this to become universal practice? What shifts in action must take place? I tend to agree with Andy Hargreaves who suggests that lasting and meaningful change in education will not be brought about by changing policy. Rather, it must be a groundswell of action. I would add that in order for the tenants of IE to be universally adopted the entire community must be brought into the discussion. The framework of IE requires this to happen, yet I would be willing to bet if you asked community members outside of education what Inspiring Education is, they would not know.

      Thanks again,
      Sean

  4. srichard permalink

    The entire framework of Inspiring Education is one that makes sense as a continuous learner but of course has its challenges. Perhaps the first step in forwarding this concept into action is creating opportunities for dialogue between those individuals in the community and the schools themselves as to how they learned best. When we tell our “success stories” we often talk about those hands on connections to our learning. Recalling that excitement in our own history of learning is what may excite others to make the changes that we need. We need to start talking.

    • Sandra,

      Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts. I think you have touched on a significant point here. To me, the key component of the Inspiring Education framework does not happen with the teachers and students. That is a huge component. However, without the full involvement of the community, the process of Inspiring Education will not be fully realized. I also think the idea of talking more is significant. Discussions like this one are a great step in building the community of teachers. We now need to bring in community members as well as students, parents, and teachers. What are your thoughts about how that discussion could take place.

      Thank you again,
      Sean

  5. As an Alberta teacher, I feel excited about the Inspiring Education document, but at the same time it seems overwhelming in implementing it. Kind of like trying to get to the moon…. an exciting process but there are so many variables. An exciting theory, but it seems so far away.
    There are so many variables and pieces of the puzzle….education will have to happen so differently, yet everyone….boards, administrators, teachers….everyone seems to be afraid to take first step. How do we get the change process started?

    • Cammie,

      First, thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I think you highlight a concern many of our colleagues share. What is the first step? For me, the first step in engaging the Inspiring Education framework is to act within my own class. I am very lucky to have an administrator who allows and encourages me to take teaching risks. I have taken the framework I wrote about and have begun to implement it within my classes. So far, my students have been willing to go with me on it. Right now, I am proposing the problem for them to work on but I hope eventually to get the problems from the students. In addition, I am a Social Studies Department Head. In this capacity, I am introducing the process as a way to identify methods to implement Inspiring Education within our Social Studies classes. In our department meetings we discuss problems with rolling out IE and then work through the process to identify solutions. In this way, we model the process for our students. Again, we are in the early stages of this process. So, I think the answer to your question is reflected in Chris Smeaton’s comment – we just need to do it. We need to take risks in our teaching, even if they are small steps. All big accomplishments begin with a single step. We need to act confidently and know that it is in the best interests of our students. As I have written before in the blog, we, like our students, must be willing to make frequent attempts in learning. That’s how we will change the world.

      Thanks,
      Sean

  6. Sharleen Smith permalink

    I agree with Laurel, we as educators need to model what we wish for our students. And while I agree that much of what Inspiring Ed discusses is being done in many classrooms, there is a disturbing number of classrooms where this is not the norm. Thank you for distilling the Inspiring Education document down to the important ideas. As a classroom teacher it is less overwhelming to see it laid out so simply…we can achieve this…and in many cases we are doing it already. Your discussion removes the barriers that are evident in the source document. I had fewer questions of how or why will initiative will roll out.

    • Sharleen,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. I am glad that the posting helped in simplifying the document for you. My question is what are you going to do in your classroom/school to implement the process? I am very eager to hear how you are implementing IE. I think that is a key component of how all of us can be involved. If we hear and collaborate maybe it will make the process easier for others and we will have a groundswell of action.

      Thanks again,
      Sean

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