EdCan Network, Opinion, Promising Practices, Teaching

A change mindset requires curiosity

This content has been re-posted from Barry Dyck’s blog at: http://blogs.hsd.ca/barrydyck/2014/05/06/a-change-mindset-requires-curiosity/

This past week I attended a CEA workshop entitled, “What’s standing in the way of change in education?” We shared our experiences of schools at their best, what we see as barriers to change, how we’ve moved around some of those barriers, and then designed some ways to tackle those barriers to achieve the kinds of school that we envision. (More here.)

Participants included students, teachers, administrators, superintendents, parents, trustees, MTS staff, MSIP (Manitoba Schools for Improvement) staff, and curriculum support teachers. I enjoyed the conversations and multiple perspectives. Clearly, at the end of the day, there wasn’t going to be some great here’s-how-to-do-it plan to make change happen. What is clear though, is that we have to involve many different voices. And that’s where it gets interesting.

We all come at “school” with different notions of what learning is. We have different perspectives on what we value as important. The cliques and clubs and communities and tribes and religions and denominations and political affiliations and…that we belong to, show that we tend to group ourselves together with people who think like we do. We end up in the echo chambers of confirmation bias as Grant Wiggins recently wrote.

I belong to many different groups, virtual and in person, with people who share some of my views. It roots me. But I also know that roots connect and share with other roots, giving and taking nutrients for mutual survival. The groups I belong to are nodes in the network. I must connect with others, be willing to listen, to consider others’ ideas, to understand and yes, to change my previously held views.

One way to bring about change is to be curious. Ask others not only what they think, but why. This can be threatening, but only if one expects to have a conversation and not be changed by it.

If exchanging ideas with others doesn’t alter or evolve you or have you at least reconsider your position, then perhaps you were engaged in monologuing rather than dialoguing.

Change requires risk and uncertainty and a view of failure as growth.

To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth. Ed Catmull

I furthered my discussions of education last Thursday when I attended my first EdCamp. An edcamp is a user-generated unconference, where participants decide both the content of what they would like to share and what they would like to learn more about. The morning starts with a sharing of potential topics, which are then grouped into sessions. One is free to leave a session and move to another one or to join with one or more others to explore another topic. There are some natural organizing principles at work here.

As this was an education leaders edcamp, the space was populated with individuals whose roles were to assist teachers with their practice. While there were good exchanges of valuable ideas for how to work with teachers and principals in planning and organizing professional development, there was much echoing.

The best part of the day was the after-lunch “things that suck” session. One of the organizers, Darren Kuropatwa, posted topics such as grades, textbooks, BYOD, report cards while participants moved to the “it sucks” or “it’s awesome” side of the room and then stated why they supported their view as a 5 minute timer ticked down. Interestingly, many stayed in the middle. Context matters. Repeatedly after sharing positions, the conclusion was that it was “the user” that made something suck or be awesome. One brave soul, Rennie, often took on the role of the single opposing voice to the crowd, which was a valuable role.

So at the end of the week, it looks like it’s both the what and the who that’s standing in the way of change. The who, is me, and I can’t use the barriers as an excuse not to do what I can to create change.

For more information and to get involved in CEA’s ongoing What’s standing in the way of change in education? national conversation, please visit http://standingintheway.ca and follow @cea_ace and #CanEdChange on Twitter.

Meet the Expert(s)

barry dyck

Barry Dyck


Barry Dyck has taught for over 28 years from Grade 4 to university level. He is currently in a new position teaching Grade 9 multimedia in Winnipeg, Man., where he’s working to get students in Grades 5-9 involved in creating content for the school’s daily YouTube broadcast while also preparing for a future podcast channel.

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