PROCESS POST: Content = Solute; Context = Solvent; Curriculum = Solution (finding)

We believe that students learn best when they are . . .

  • essential members of a vibrant, diverse learning community,
  • immersed in challenging, real-life experiences that make a difference,
  • exploring ideas, questions, and projects that are meaningful and relevant to them,
  • collaborating with inspiring adults who know them well,
  • given real responsibility for their education, and
  • in touch with their innate wisdom and capacity for insight.

from Watershed School

Re-listening to outgoing NAIS president Pat Bassett’s TEDxSaintGeorgesSchool – Schools of the Future, I heard him say that one of his grandchildren attends The Watershed School. At 18:30, Bassett explains the way 7th graders start the school year at Watershed – with an expedition to the source of the Colorado River. Learning is based on exploration and discovery, problem finding and problem solving – real-life context in which the content is solute dissolving in solvent to form a solution.

What does your school believe helps students learn best? How are you realizing those beliefs?

Building further from this post: “Could there actually be one “C” to rule them all?!”

PROCESS POST: Big Shifts, Revolution, and Foxfire

I only have a few minutes to write, and I wanted to record a bit of what I am researching and thinking about…

Big Shifts

Thanks to Twitter, I picked up on a post from @MikeGwaltney (Mike Gwaltney): “A Conversation about Big Shifts.” In the post, Gwaltney recounted NAIS president Pat Bassett’s main points from his March NAIS address and his later talk at TEDxSt. George’s School.

1. Knowing must become Doing.

2. Teacher-Centered must become Student-Centered.

3. Individual must become Team.

4. Consumption must become Construction.

5. Schools must become Networks.

6. Single Sourcing must become Crowd Sourcing.

7.High Stakes Testing must become High Value Demonstration.

8. Disciplinary must become Interdisciplinary.

Maybe because I, too, was present for Bassett’s NAIS keynote and because I had listened to the TEDx talk, Gwaltney’s post really resonated with me – I was primed to hold the post and its message in my mind.


Thanks to The Lovett School’s fine American Studies Institute in June: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised? American Culture: 1970-present,” I have had Jay Bonner (of The Asheville School) in my mind, as I have continuously contemplated his idea that “revolution” is a cyclical re-turning…perhaps a revolution is a return to things of the past.


Thanks to a research project I am working on, I was re-reading Thomas Armstrong’s The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. Of course, this line really struck a cord with me:

Educators who employ Academic Achievement Discourse often highlight the existence of a so-called achievement gap that has beset our nation’s schools. However, there is a far more profound educational gap that needs bridging. It is the gap between the ‘schoolhouse world’ and the ‘real world.’ All children, but especially those at the elementary school level, have as a central developmental focus the need to find out how the world works. (pp. 89-90)

I went on to read about best practices in “real-world schooling,” and I discovered The Foxfire Project, which is a brand of community-based education.

Another way that children can learn about how the world works is through direct contact with their local community. Perhaps the most well-known example of this approach is the Foxfire Experiment [I did not know about it]. In 1966, Eliot Wigginton and his students at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in northeast Georgia embarked on a mission to interview local elders in the surrounding community….Their project gave birth to a magazine called Foxfire…, and later to a book, a movie, a museum, and a foundation that still operates to further this kind of approach to learning in schools around the country (Wigginton, 1973). (pp. 104-105)

The Braid – Weaving Together Big Shifts, Revolution, and Foxfire

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of “Big Shifts” and “Revolutions.” As I read and discover more about the Foxfire Project, I realize that the “Big Shifts” are all there. All of them. In 1966, the Foxfire Project possessed all 8 of Bassett’s big shifts.

Could the big shifts in education be returns – revolutions – to methods of the past? Many speak of the cycles of educational methodology. But are we long-term meandering around a more powerful approach to school-based education? What will be the catalyst(s) and stimuli that actually cause the big shifts (returns?) to occur large-scale in schools? When will the revolution be achieved?

Are we trying to push an enormous stone of inertial resistance up a huge slope of fear-of-change? Is that why the revolution never seems to apex and move with momentum down the other side of the slope?

Works Cited

Armstrong, Thomas. The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. ASCD, Alexandria, VA: 2006.

A list for success and prosperity…wondering about what “school” could be

How are we doing on this list of “skills and values that will be necessary for students to succeed and prosper in these turbulent and ever-changing times?” (from Pat Bassett’s conflation of six resources as cited in “An Education President for the 21st Century,” Patrick F. Bassett, Independent School, Fall, 2008)
  1. character (self-discipline, empathy, integrity, resilience, and courage);
  2. creativity and entrepreneurial spirit;
  3. real-world problem-solving (filtering, analysis, and synthesis);
  4. public speaking/communications;
  5. teaming; and
  6. leadership.

Thinking about how to show demonstrable evidence of OUTCOMES for #2, 3, 4, and 6 – for ALL students, not just those enrolled in certain electives – causes me to pause and seriously consider designing for process over product. I also wonder about those schools or other experiences that are really playing matchmaker between world issues and adolescent energy.

How do you think schools are doing on this list? What are the exemplar schools that provide great models for ways to help such development happen? What are some exemplar models from other industries and organizations?

Demonstrations of Learning for 21st-Century Schools
Patrick F. Bassett
Fall 2009

CHANGEd: What if we used the Big Shifts to evolve? 60-60-60 #56

Do educators really listen to the leaders of our national organizations? Shouldn’t we? As a member of an NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) school, I believe I should listen and respond to the leadership of Pat Bassett. Will you take 27 minutes to watch his talk about the Big Shifts for schools of the future? Isn’t it worth 27 minutes to understand more fully how our NAIS president believes schools must be disturbed and evolve to become relevant and effective schools of the future? And it’s not just for independent schools; it’s for all schools!

Oh, watching and listening is only a start. We should be inspired to DO. We should be inspired to ACT.

As I have continued to plan for a faculty meeting that I will not be leading in August 2012, I would add Pat’s TEDx talk to my list of “brainfood” resources. And I think I would add the NAIS Commission on Accreditation’s – A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future.

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

CHANGEd: What if we invited, even prayed for, disturbance? 60-60-60 #55

Recently, I heard my school president open a meeting with a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake in 1577. I accessed a copy of the prayer here. In the prayer, I am reminded of a line from Pat Bassett’s TEDx St. George School talk (upcoming in post #56), which paraphrased basically communicated – Parents, we should seek teachers for our children who are experimenters. And earlier in the talk he stated, “Be an advocate for your children and your schools to be innovative.”

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained