HCD21 Update: What’s in a word?

During last week’s HCD21 session, I realized that we typically identify what we believe to be root problems by approaching them “head on.” Statements like the following are often thought to be the problem:

  • My kids are not paying attention
  • Student achievement scores are too low in our school
  • High school students are just not engaged

While they represent visible manifestations of underlying problems, the reasons are often  hidden and require a different approach to uncover. To frame the problem more precisely, our leadership team began with what is we want the end-users of our schools (students, teachers, parents) to feel, think and believe on the other end of the learning process.

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One example statement from our work: Our learning is relevant to us now and in the future; it helps us create meaning.

This might be a comment we’d like to overhear from students or teachers. The very fact that it boils up as a vision of what we want implies it’s not evident in our schools right now. At least not at a level we accept. This type of statement frames the work we need to do to determine the root causes and create new insights that can lead to actionable prototypes of solutions.

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But before proceeding, our work last week centered on ensuring we define the various key words used to describe our vision. For example, what does relevant mean to us? What do we mean when we say create meaning? Having a common understanding of the language we use to frame the problem ensures we share the same reference points when framing the problem. The photos on this page illustrate the process we took in developing initial consensus.

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We are getting closer to the point where we’ll be inviting many others to participate in our work including a substantial ethnographic study that will feature individual and focus group interviews that in some ways should validate what we’ve accomplished thus far as well as shine more light on how our school system is doing from the viewpoints of various end-users. Our mission this fall and throughout the winter months is to ensure we’ve discovered the very root causes that prevent all of our students from achieving the level of success that helps them reach their goals and dreams. From there we can begin to redesign and test new structures and processes that will bring our district, schools and classrooms into the 21st century.


About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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4 Responses to HCD21 Update: What’s in a word?

  1. Pingback: HCD21 Update: Identifying and mapping stakeholders | Superintendent's Notes

  2. Pingback: Most Likely to Succeed: More than simply project-based learning | Superintendent's Notes

  3. Pingback: HCD21 Update: Gaining Emapthy | Superintendent's Notes

  4. Pingback: HCD21: Year 1 report on redesigning our educational system | Superintendent's Notes

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