Step 4: Finding Problems, @GrantLichtman #EdJourney, episode 6, week 5

If there was a place along our path where my own students, year after year, wanted to stop, take a timeout, and really argue, it is right here. Our training and intuition both scream at us: “Why do I need to go looking for problems? Enough problems find me on their own!” Our educational system is firmly grounded in the concept that problem solving is the key to winning the game of life and that our daily encounters with the world provide us plenty to solve, thanks very much.

So I will tell you what I used to tell my students at this point: the central failure of our entire educational system is that we provide canned material for students to solve and expect them to return to us the correct canned answer. That is not how real problems occur that need to be solved. If we, as parents, teachers, and bosses, want our children, students, and employees to become more than robotic transponders of our historical and cultural ethos, we must teach them how to find their own problems in their own ways. Take a few more steps around this bend, and it will make sense.

So begins The Falconer chapter entitled, “Step 4: Finding Problems.” Through his #EdJourney, Grant Lichtman, author of The Falconer is engaged in his own problem finding. At this juncture of his search – the end of week 5 – Grant has identified a trend and pattern among those schools that seem to be more readily engaging the processes of educational innovation.

  1. Innovating schools appear to have a person that functions something like a C.P.F. – a chief problem finder. In many cases, of course, this person functions on a team, but the job of “Director of Innovation” (or similarly titled) possesses time and space and opportunity to engage deeply with the processes linked to The Innovator’s DNA: 1) observing, 2) questioning, 3) experimenting, 4) networking, and 5) associating.
  2. Innovating schools appear to have more balance between content-centric curriculum and context-centric curriculum. Innovating schools put students and faculty – but particularly students – in the position of problem finder. Students at innovating schools tend to have more opportunity to choose projects, propose problems they’d like to explore, participate in the “real world,” and practice the habits of mind related to problem finding. They are expected to be “directors of innovation in training.”

Innovation does not just happen. Schools curate for innovation. How are you curating for innovation at your school?

Featured posts from Grant Lichtman’s #EdJourney…in week 5:

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