Campus master plans are beautiful, elegant solutions. They make visible entire systems of complex thinking. Is there any comparable practice in schools when it comes to “pedagogical master planning” or “instructional systems thinking?” I don’t think strategic planning is even remotely comparable given the manner in which it is most commonly done. Isn’t that fascinating? We spend enormous time, energy, and resources on physical-space planning, yet we don’t really do such with the core of what really exists at the center of learning in schools.
Can you show a visitor your “pedagogical master plan” if she asked to see it…like you could a campus master plan? Could you point to the system of blueprints, engineering details, and relational diagrams?
On the University of Buffalo’s “Building_UB Photostream” on Flickr, you can see in their campus master plan the thoughtful planning that undergirds all of the eventual blueprinting, engineering, and constructing. You can see sets of plans that provide intentional detail about how buildings will relate to one another by function and geography. You can see green-space drawings and bubble diagrams that reveal why various operations are grouped and coordinated in particular ways. You can see the whole…and all of the virtually countless parts.
Of course, after such thorough master planning is completed, the “real work” is only just beginning. Renovation schedules must be developed and articulated. Architectural blueprints and renderings must be created. Engineering schema must be decided – water, electrical, gas, flooring, lighting, etc. FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment) must be selected. And, if done well, ALL of those countless decisions radiate from the uber planning – the campus master plans. It just has that “this-makes-sense” kind of feeling.
Do schools have anything comparable in terms of planning and implementation for the overall system of instruction and pedagogy that should exist at the heart of any and all educational organizations?
Schools seem to be making countless decisions…
- Technology – laptops, tablets, Apple, PC, BYOD/BYOT, interactive white boards, student information systems, social media, etc.
- Methods – lecture, experiential, PBL, CBL, DBL, flipped classrooms, discovery, inquiry, Socratic, etc.
- Content – math (algebra, calculus, statistics), English, history, science (physics first?), what world languages?, advisement, PE,…what about anthropology, psychology, biomechanical engineering, wood working, metallurgy, etc.
- Assessment – grades, standards-based, zeros, averaging, mastery, rubrics (how many levels?), standardized testing, authentic and performance-based, etc.
- Professional development – conferences, PLCs, Critical Friends Groups, portfolios, in-service, FedEx days, task forces, etc.
- Learning spaces – …
- Skills – …
- [And the list goes on.]
Are we developing master plans that make visible the links, connections, relationships, influences, and impacts that each of these “buildings” has on the other “buildings” on campus? Are we designing the architectural blueprints and engineering blow-ups that show each and every one of these categorical constructs working and existing in harmonious symphony with the other interrelated elements?
Can you show me such plans? Can you show me how a decision to implement PBL – just one pedagogical methodology – impacts the ripple-decisions of technology, professional development, assessment, learning spaces, etc.?
The system is a whole. It reminds me of the song about the ankle bone connected to the shin bone, the shin bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone,….
I wonder what would happen on a school campus if a small group of builders just squatted on a section of property and began building. What if this “rogue” group sawed, hammered, and nailed their creation without much coordination with the campus master plan. Not from spite or rebellion. Just from lack of clarity and collective connectedness.
Such happens every day in the pedagogical and instructional system of a school. Lots of independent contractors not having the level of master plans to which they have contributed and from which they can coordinate.
[out of writing time for now.]