Posts Tagged ‘Rod Allen’

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Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the British Columbia School Business Officials (BCASBO) Fall Professional Development Conference. At that presentation, we explored some of the global trends in education and how the draft K-9 BC curriculum is a piece of a larger puzzle which will need to include changes in several areas including assessment and reporting.  We took another 20 minutes to use a force field analysis to explore the drivers and resisting factors around change.

Since the presentation, I have had several requests for more details on using the force field analysis as a decision-making tool, so the following is more detail on how this tool can be effectively used in a variety of settings including education. I find it interesting that as a History 12 teacher I employed the same tool which allowed students to a better look and understanding of the political decisions countries made, but was reminded of it, a few weeks ago, when Rod Allen from the BC Ministry of Education used it for analysis with a large group.  My thanks to Rod for the use of some of his presentation slides to help explain the tool.

For supplies, you need chart paper, Post-it notes and enough markers for each person in the group.  The activity works well in groups of no more than eight people.

First, start with an issue and write it in the middle of the sheet of paper.  In a Social Studies class, it might be “United States entering World War 2 in 1941” or could be something out of the headlines like “Maintaining the current rules around the Agriculture Land Reserve.”  For those with school or district decisions, the tool could be used for “Adopting an extended day calendar” or, as shown below, “The Creation of a new district-wide elementary report card that does not use letter grades for Grades 4 and 5.”

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Group members are given time to brainstorm on Post-it notes the driving (positive) forces and restraining (negative) forces around the topic.  It is best to focus on one item at a time, allowing 10 minutes to brainstorm the driving forces and then 10 minutes to brainstorm the restraining forces.  In order to keep them separate, have people use different colour notes for the driving and restraining forces.

Once everyone has had a chance to brainstorm items, groups work to cluster these items to a maximum of five key items.  If the groups are small, this activity can be done as one large group, or one person can be assigned the task of clustering items for the entire room.

Image 4When I had previously used this tool this is where I had left it — simply clarifying and solidifying the key elements for and against a topic.  But, I really like what Rod Allen did when taking this strategy further — once both sides of the five areas were identified, the room voted on the level of importance of each area. A 5 point scale is used with ‘1’ being not so important and ‘5’ being very important.  This could be done through a conversation and in a large room where people could show 1-to-5 fingers and the facilitator could scan the room for a majority.  A value is assigned to each factor and the final numbers are tallied on the driver side and the restraining sides with each side showing a range between 5 and 25.

In reviewing the scores, the group has a quick sense of the ease/difficulty of the potential for change.  If the drivers are well above the restraints in strength, this is likely an easier change; if it is the opposite, it is likely that more work will need to be done to improve the strength of the drivers or mitigate the restraining forces.

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The strategy is nice because it can be completed within 45 minutes and it gives the group a clear view of the factors for and against change.  For those who enquired about a detailed explanation, I hope you give this strategy a try and I would be interested in knowing how effective it was for your group. More details on using the strategy are available here.

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This past week I had the opportunity to join Radio One’s On The Coast host, Stephen Quinn, and fellow panelists Ann Whiteaker, past president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils; Jerry Li, Grade 11 student from Surrey, and Peter Cowley, Senior Vice-President of Operations and Director of School Performance Studies at the Fraser Institute, in looking at the state of public education in BC. The forum, which was hosted at Vancouver Technical Secondary School in Vancouver, used the tagline “Is BC’s Public Education System Broken?”  Unfortunate, because while I do appreciate the question makes good media sense, it is not a productive starting place for a conversation about what we need to do to improve upon one of the world’s top public education systems.

I would have liked more of a chance to explore the system we want, to have engaged on how to keep it moving forward, and to discuss what a greater focus on the pedagogy and practice that will be required for schooling in our future world would look like. However, the forum did highlight the passion of those who work and participate in the public education system in British Columbia.  Hopefully, there will be more public input and conversations soon (and more listening to the voices of young people!) focussing on the learning our kids need and the education system this will require.

The forum podcast is available here (the forum was held in hours two and three,  though there is a good interview with the Ministry of Education’s Superintendent of Achievement, Rod Allen, in hour one). There were also active, and good conversations on Twitter, which one can still find by searching #otcforum. Several thoughtful reflections on the event have also been received, including this one from Jenny Arntzen.

Finally, on this topic, in advance of the session, each of the four panelists was tasked with the homework of putting together two minutes of material describing the greatest strengths and weaknesses of British Columbia’s public education system.  The notes I prepared for the conversation are below:

The greatest strength in BC is our consistent, high levels of achievement; we do really well for most kids – from graduation rates to international assessments – we are one of the top performing jurisdictions in the world. Educators from around the globe flock to BC to learn our secrets, and international students, for example, see our schools as highly desirable.

We have an incredibly diverse clientele, far more diverse now than even 10 years ago; we have been challenged by funding, yet our achievement levels have continued to improve.

And at its core, this is all about outstanding teachers and administrators – highly-skilled, dedicated, passionate teachers investigating new ways – embracing technology, and giving so much to the life of the school from athletics to the arts.  There is nothing more important than the connection teachers make to students and we get that right.  There is a total commitment to doing the right thing for every student – it is very impressive.

The system is not broken.

Ironically, this strength is also a weakness.  It is hard to transform a system that is highly successful – why change when we are doing well?  We have to come to grips with the understanding that while it may be reassuring for our kids’ schooling to look a lot like our schooling looked like, this will not prepare our kids for the world that we are in and they are entering.

We need to transform the system to a new place – more of just the same is not going to make us better; we need to connect and network the brilliant pockets of innovations blossoming around the province.

We need to address the increasing relevance and engagement gap for kids – particularly as students move to high school – kids tell us their engagement is waning.

We need to ensure the system is reflective of the world we live in with an increased focus on skills and competencies, real world learning and less content focussed.

We need to better figure out how to meet the needs of students that don’t see university as their first option after Grade 12.

To be very clear, we are in this transformation from a position of huge strength – becoming a better version of us.

Hopefully, this is the first of many opportunities this year to move conversations about public education in BC to the mainstream.

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