Updating My Pedagogical Worldview

Hello Bloggerverse!

My focus for action this school year is around the planning and design of MYP Design at my school. In recent years design has been integrated into the arts, but at long last we are now offering it as a stand-alone credit for Grades 7 & 8.

Now, I am not a design teacher by training, I am a design teacher by interest; and much like my ‘home subject’ of Geography, I am interested in the human realm of the subject, or in this case, ‘human centered design’. My interest came from the natural synergy between the ‘wicked problems’ faced by the world and the ability to apply design thinking to resolving them. That of course, is big picture. The reality I face now is how to bring those interests into a flow of content geared towards middle schoolers that will scaffold the skills they require to build their tool kit to the extent they can someday tackle the ‘wicked problems’ facing us all. In mentally prepping myself for this new adventure this summer, I was thinking about two things: 1. WHY do I want to do this and 2. HOW am I going to do this?

Let’s start with the WHY …

Last year on a quest to learn more about innovation in education and desiring to up my creative approach I read ‘Creative Confidence’ by Tom Kelley & David Kelley. It was a wonderful read, one quotation from the American writer Mark Twain really resonated, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” Their advice – to “seek out opportunities to observe and update your worldview.” Having been a teacher for 20 years now, I realize that my approach to teaching in the 21st century needs to shift to remain viable. No longer do I need to be the person with all the answers, knowledge is everywhere, it’s accessing it, analyzing it and collaboratively using it in creative ways to solve problems and improve conditions for humans and the environment… THAT is where I need to focus my ‘levelling up’.

And now the HOW…

Would it sound strange to say that in planning and designing this course, I am also learning how to be a more relevant / effective 21st practitioner? When I look at the ‘most urgent needs’ that I identified (with my students in mind) back in October, I cited: perseverance, failing well & creative confidence as my top three. I’ve sat on this homework for several weeks now, and in this time I’ve noticed that in fact their needs are tied to mine. I have been lucky to have a tech specialist support my design classes as the tech world is not my natural habitat (though I appreciate and respect its role in innovation). I have been learning from her and from the evening classes I’ve been taking to learn Adobe Illustrator; but I have depended on her to lead the tech portions of each lesson. The other day, she didn’t. I was at the front, working in Adobe and I just kept going with the project we were working on … I was making mistakes left and right. In front of my students. I wanted to call her over; I was massively uncomfortable. But I didn’t, and she didn’t. It felt like the moment where the parent releases their grip from the banana seat (in my case) bicycle. I realized then, that I was modelling ‘perseverance’ and my mindset / internal dialogue changed immediately. There have been other moments where I have totally messed up some things in Google Classroom – also a new experiment for me this year, and thought; am I ‘failing well’ in front of my students? I think the ‘creative confidence’ piece will come naturally for my students; the nature of their projects is inherently collaborative and this generally enhances creativity. In an unexpected twist, I think my students have already begun to build my creative confidence – they are as patient with me, if not more so as I hope to be with them.

In terms of the power of three … I intend to flip these questions to my students but also to other design teachers.

For students, I’d like to ask:
1. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated perseverance? What were you doing? What did it feel like?
2. Tell me about a time when you ‘failed’ something? What were you doing? What did it feel like? What were your next steps?
3. What does creative confidence look like to you? Can you describe a time when you felt confident in your creativity?
I am designing the Grade 8 course around these ATL skills, and will use this feedback to help build those evaluations.

For teachers of design I’d like to ask: (I’m looking at you @mhoel and @ljensen !)
1. How do you support your students when they become frustrated? How do you encourage them to persevere?
2. How do you work ‘failure’ into the design process so that it is re-enforced as a part of the process?
3. What activities have you had success with in building student’s creative confidence?

9 thoughts on “Updating My Pedagogical Worldview

  1. Cohort 21 never ceases to amaze me when it comes to how often different people from different disciplines are working on the same thing! I just read @sletham 's "power of 3" and her focus in her math classes this year is growth mindset, perseverance, and resiliency! Sounds like a "lunch chat" on Saturday to me!

    I love your line, "I’ve sat on this homework for several weeks now, and in this time I’ve noticed that in fact their needs are tied to mine." ... crazy how often this happens when we venture into unknown territory, trying new things as educators!

    Your post made me think of 2 images:



    See you Saturday!

    1. Post author

      Hi Mike - thanks so much for your feedback and for connecting me to @sletham , I'd love to chat Sat about encouraging perseverance in our classrooms. Great images too, the first one reminds me of something I once saw from @lmcbeth only it featured a bicycle on fire! Both are excellent visuals for our students & ourselves , thanks for sharing.

  2. tina jagdeo

    Hey @acampbell-rogers. Thanks for writing this post. I, too, am grappling with many of the issues you raise as I reflect on my teaching philosophy. More and more, I see my role shifting to not only be teacher as mentor with subject knowledge, but to also be teacher as guide and (the hardest one!) teacher as co-learner. Kudos to you for modelling risk taking and making mistakes in front of your students. I think telling our students to 'embrace failure' and to 'persevere' is very different from stepping up and having our students bear witness to our learning process. @mtrelford is also investigating learning from failure and I'm sure would love to chat on Sat. See you soon!

    1. Post author

      Hi Tina, I really like how you separate the teaching role here; mentor, guide, co-learner ... I do believe we have to be all three and this shift is both exciting and giving me growing pains! I really appreciate the connection to @mtrelford, I will seek her out on Saturday! Look forward to seeing you too!

  3. Thanks for this, Allison! The Twain quotation in your "WHY" section brought the Dunning-Kruger effect to mind. Overcoming false confidence in knowledge expertise is something that we need to both practice and promote as educators. I think that urgent needs you've chosen to address all tie in to this concept in some way, and provide a means through which we can embrace what we—and our students—don't know, and leverage it as a means for inquiry, rather than see it as a deficit. I am looking forward to hearing about how your plan progresses this year!

    1. Post author

      Great food for thought Jess! We are working on incorporating SEL as a whole school community this year and your comment took me into that space - the connection between my urgent needs and the Dunning-Kruger effect perhaps involves modelling / teaching humility. Thanks as always for a thought provoking interaction! See you Saturday!

  4. Hey Allison, - yay, you! For putting yourself in the position of learning something new and for modelling to your students what it looks like to take a risk and recovering when things don't go quite as planned.

    Funny how paths and ideas intersect... @rarcher (mentioned by Garth) and I are supporting some of our faculty through a design thinking process at UCC to work on their own projects (like a mini Cohort21) and we included exactly those 2 images that @mmoore shared with you. And, in Season 6 @dcrawford and I spent quite a bit of time talking about creative confidence - I thought I would explore "How might we empower students and teachers to approach issues with creative confidence?" but I found it was too broad and not tied closely enough to what I knew I had to do at school. I ended up realizing that design thinking was the answer to my question. I believed in that because it empowered students to believe they could do something to make a difference for themselves and/or others. I am wondering what it is about creative confidence that you find compelling? Judging from your questions, it seems to be something around taking risks and learning/recovering from failure.

    I'm looking forward to connecting on those questions you posed!

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